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The U.S. Should Step Back From Its Special Relationship With Israel

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  • Roger Cohen on U.S. Public Opinion towards Israel

    Clip: Roger Cohen argues for the motion "The U.S. Should Step Back from Its Special Relationship with Israel."

  • Roger Cohen on Israel

    Clip: Roger Cohen argues for the motion "The U.S. Should Step Back from Its Special Relationship with Israel."

  • Rashin Khalidi on Israel

    Clip: Rashin Khalidi argues for the motion "The U.S. Should Step Back from Its Special Relationship with Israel."

  • Stuart Eizenstat on Israel and Palestine

    Clip: Stuart Eizenstat argues against the motion "The U.S. Should Step Back from Its Special Relationship with Israel."

Debate Details

Israel believes America’s special relationship is vital. It is, certainly, to Israel. But what about for the US? Israel has no oil, enemies in many places, and a tendency to defy Washington when it perceives its own interests to be threatened, which is not infrequent. In a zero sum Middle East, does America’s coziness with Israel cost us in good will with Muslim world, including those oil-rich Arab states whose dollar holdings come back to the US in the form of investments and loans, which the US economy needs — especially now? But there’s an important connection between the US and Israel that goes deeper than finance or energy convenience. It’s a foundation of mutual loyalty and shared values — democracy being only the most obvious. There has also been a history of shared intelligence, military cooperation, and significant cross-fertilization of scientific knowledge. To sacrifice these connections to improve relations with the Arab world would be an act of betrayal — of an ally — and of what we say we stand for. Should the US consider putting some distance between itself and Israel? Would such a change in policy serve American interests, or is it a move we would come to regret?

The Debaters

For the motion

Roger Cohen

Columnist, New York Times

Joined the New York Times in 1990. He was a foreign correspondent for more than a decade before becoming acting foreign editor on September 11, 2001... Read More

Rashad Khalidi

Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies, Columbia University

Is the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University. He was president of the Middle East Studies Association, and was an advisor to... Read More

Against the motion

Stuart Eizenstat

Chief White House Domestic Policy Adviser

Has held a number of key senior positions in three US administrations, including chief White House domestic policy adviser to President Jimmy Carter;... Read More

Itamar Rabinovich

Israel's Former Ambassador to the United States

is Israel's former ambassador to the United States and former chief negotiator with Syria in the mid 1990s. He is the incumbent of the Ettinger Chair... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • Because of its unconditional support, the United States is unable to speak openly and critically of Israel’s mistakes.
  • America cannot act as an honest intermediary of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, thus ensuring continued conflict in the region and providing fodder for terrorist groups that use Israel’s occupation as a recruitment tool.
  • America’s unwavering alliance with Israel has led Arab nations to question American intentions in the Middle East and has hindered opportunities for military, economic, and political collaboration between the United States and other nations in the region.
Against The Motion
  • If the United States wavers in its commitment to Israel, it will send a strong message that its alliances are unstable, undermining American hegemony and weakening its relationships abroad.
  • The American military benefits immensely from its relationship to Israel, particularly in terms of intelligence sharing on terrorism, joint military actions, and in Israel’s actions to prevent proliferation in Iraq and Syria.
  • Because the United States enjoys a special relationship with Israel, it is uniquely suited to broker a two-state solution given the Israeli incentive to negotiate with Palestinian leadership is to preserve its alliance with the United States.

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The Research

The Research

Israel under Fire

The Gale Group
January 1, 2010

How special is the U.S.-Israel Relationship?

Mitchell G. Bard and Daniel Pipes
June 1, 1997

Israel: Background and Relations with the United States

Carol Migdalovitz
April 2, 2009
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