Just eleven minutes after Israel officially declared its independence on May 14, 1948, the United States — under President Harry S. Truman — became the first country to recognize the Jewish homeland as a state.
In 1965, seventeen years later, a memorandum of understanding was secretly signed between Israel and the United States, thereby establishing a military alliance between the two nations which has continued to thrive to this day.
Since 1985, the United States has provided their ally with between $3 and $4 billion in aid each year, money which has been primarily used to strengthen Israel’s military and defend against its not-so-friendly neighbors.
To this day, outspoken critics of the alliance argue it’s not mutually beneficial for the United States to participate in any sort of partnership with the Jewish nation-state, let alone a financial and military alliance.
Here are four reasons why they’re wrong.
Israel is the only American ally in the Middle East
It’s hardly a secret that the United States is vastly unpopular throughout most of the Middle East and, more broadly, the Muslim world.
Despite the decades-long “War on Terror” which followed the deadliest terrorist attack in American history on September 11, 2001, Islamic radicalism in countries such as Iraq, Iran, Syria and Afghanistan continue to pose a threat to both the United States and every Western or liberal country in the world.
Conversely, as the only liberal democracy in the region, Israel stands both as a beacon of hope for freedom and as a strategic military asset for the United States. For example, during the Gulf War, Israel supported the United States in its military campaign against the Iraqi government and speculative aggression in Jordan. Not only that, Israel supplied American troops with equipment such as mine plows, night vision goggles, flak vests, gas masks and sandbags.
In addition to military actions and supply line support, Israel has also been pivotal in terms of regional intelligence. Just last year, Israeli intelligence helped enable the United States’ assassination of Qassem Soleimani, head of the Iranian elite Quds force.
Israel’s recent history of military engagements — 15 armed conflicts in 73 years, many of which involved vastly larger enemy numbers — has also provided a wealth of knowledge for the United States armed forces, offering insight into the military capabilities of states in the region.
Because of Israel’s location and the ideology of its neighbors, the Israeli military has been forced to become one of the most agile, strategically intelligent, battle-hardened forces in the world — and the United States has taken note. For decades, American soldiers have been stationed in Israel, with joint training exercises between the two allies becoming extremely common.
Israel is an innovator on the world stage
Despite being smaller than the state of New Jersey in terms of land mass, the tiny country of Israel was fifth in the 2019 Bloomberg innovation Index, which ranks the world’s most innovative countries. And one of the fields dominated by Israel is that of military innovation.
There is no better example of such innovation than the unfortunately famous Iron Dome system, which provides Israel with ground-breaking air-based protection from rocket fire. In 2021 alone, thousands of rockets were launched by the terrorist group, Hamas, targeting Israeli civilians. While damage and loss of life could have been catastrophic, according to Rafael Advanced Systems — the creator of the Iron Dome — at least 90% of these rockets have been intercepted by the high-tech system.
In simple terms, Israeli innovation has saved countless Israeli lives.
The Iron Dome system is so successful that the United States — which rarely buys military technology from other countries — agreed to purchase two Iron Dome batteries equipped with launchers and missiles in 2019.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a statement, “I am confident that the system will assist the US Army in protecting American troops from ballistic and airborne threats as well as from developing threats in the areas where US troops are deployed on various missions.”
Israel is responsible for numerous military innovations adopted by the United States, including a variety of unarmed aerial vehicles (drones), the laser rangefinder, and the “Trophy” system which protects vehicles from attack.
Beyond military innovation, Israel is consistently at the forefront of technological advancement, responsible for countless ground-breaking products and services which benefit the United States and other countries across the world.
Among Israel’s most memorable technological achievements are 1993’s Firewall (which was the original defense system against malware), 1996’s first global instant messenger (ICQ), and the world’s first USB drive in 1999.
The United States has also found technological benefits from Israel’s innovation. For example, Operation Olympic Games was a covert cyber sabotage operation started under President George W. Bush in 2006 which worked with Israeli intelligence to target the Iranian nuclear facility “Natanz.”
The groundbreaking cyberweapon — one of the first known of its kind — used in Operation Olympic Games is known as Stuxnet, a malicious computer worm widely accepted as being developed by Israel and the United States. The attack on Natanz reportedly resulted in the physical destruction of 1,000 machines and the infection of 200,000 computers, setting back Iran’s nuclear objectives.
Last, but certainly not least, there is the undeniable fact that Israel and the United States hold a shared set of values, based largely on a Judeo-Christian worldview. These shared values mean that Israel effectively serves as an ideological extension of American influence into the Middle East.
The Middle East is largely filled with anti-western, authoritarian, radical Islamic countries which share no virtuous commonalities with the United States. Israel, however, is different.
Israel is a country dedicated to fair democracy. Every citizen of Israel – regardless of religion, sexual preference, race, or sex, is entitled to the same rights. While the shared values between other allies appear to be decaying over time, it is unquestionably beneficial for the United States to rely on Israel as not only an ally, but a friend in the Middle East who shares the same values, and is willing to fight alongside the United States to defend those values.