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Briefing: Strains in US 'special relationship' with Israel

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US diplomatic support for Israel, such as its veto power at the United Nations, is also a strategic asset. Without such diplomatic backing, Israel would find itself often without any allies on the international stage.

What does the US get out of it?

During the cold war, Israel helped the US curb Soviet expansion. Their intelligence services worked closely, with Israel famously obtaining Nikita Khrush­chev’s “de-Stalinization” speech in 1956.

But it was Israel’s stunning defeat of Soviet clients Egypt and Syria in the 1967 war that made the United States see its ally as a real military asset, says William Quandt, a former National Security Council member who helped broker Israel-Egypt peace under President Jimmy Carter. After the cold war, however, it became unclear what the “glue” was in the US-Israel relationship, he says.

Today, Israel has strong cultural, educational, and economic ties with the US. It provides missile technology and intelligence on counterterrorism and nuclear proliferation. But its agencies were just as much in the dark as the US (and Britain) about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction. And while the two allies’ interests in fighting Islamist militants overlap, they are not uniform.

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