US-Israel ties are arguably stronger and deeper now than at any time since Israel’s founding in 1948. The relationship tends to rest on shared principles rather than the personalities at the top.
It’s no secret that there’s been little love lost between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who began their terms within months of each other – and now both face reelection.
But despite that cool personal relationship, US-Israel ties are arguably stronger and deeper now than at any time since Israel’s founding in 1948. While some presidents have made a big impact on peace talks or key security issues – George H.W. Bush’s handling of the 1991 Gulf war, for example – the relationship tends to rest on shared principles rather than the personalities at the top.
“What you see in the media is the tip of the iceberg, what’s at the top, and you see some coolness,” says an Israeli official who declined to be named due to the sensitive election period. “You think it reflects on the rest of the relationship and it doesn’t.”
Perhaps one of the strongest and most objective measures is trade. In the past decade, US-Israel trade has nearly doubled. US exports to Israel rose from $7 billion in 2002 to $13.9 billion last year, while US imports from Israel during the same window rose from $12.4 billion to $23 billion, according to the US Census Bureau.
The emergence of that “fourth pillar” builds on a trio of more well-established bonds – spiritual, democratic, and military, says Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the US and author of “Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1773 to the Present.”