What Americans Think of the Middle East
US foreign policy
Dr. phil., born 1945; Professor i. R. for international relations at the Goethe University Frankfurt / M., Im Langgewann 37, 65719 Hofheim.
Email: [email protected]
It is undisputed that the USA is of particular importance in shaping the Middle East conflict. The basis for this is provided by their superpower status and the "special relationship" between the United States and Israel. The USA has become the protective power of the Israeli state, to which, despite the blatant differences in power potentials, it allows a great deal of freedom.  In economic and military aid, Israel has been at the forefront of American spending since the 1970s. In critical situations, American arms deliveries were central to Israel's self-assertion; the US even tolerates its unofficial nuclear status.
The close relationship cannot only be explained by the security benefits for both sides. Emotional ties and political-cultural affinities are at least as important. Israel can count on great support in the US throughout, not only because it is a democracy, but also because of the Holocaust. Irrespective of this, some central aspects of the American self-image are reflected in the Israeli prehistory and in the Zionist program. Both societies are ostensibly secular, but religion plays a central role in both. The reference to the "Holy Land" is of high symbolic importance not only for many Israelis, but also for many Americans. Both countries emerged from initially quite precarious pioneer societies that established themselves as states in difficult wars of independence. Both societies are highly multicultural, albeit hierarchically structured: in principle, every man or woman can become American, every Jew and every Jew Israeli.
Beyond these general statements, there are very different interpretations of the relationship between the United States and Israel. Looking at the history of their relationships calls into question popular political beliefs; it also documents central contradictions in US foreign policy towards the Middle East conflict.
The present article is a condensed and updated version of a study that was published as PRIF Report 14/2004 (Frankfurt / M. 2004).
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