Those blithely advocating Israeli independence from the United States should be careful what they wish for.

The importance of the United States to Israel’s national security cannot be overstated. Washington is usually the first, and often the sole, port of call for strategic consultation – almost always the foremost one, and inevitably the primary means of addressing the challenges Israel faces. America is the be-all and end-all of most policy deliberations in Israeli national-security decision-making forums. Some four decades into this ‘special relationship’, the price of a truly remarkable partnership has been a significant loss of Israeli independence. Indeed, Israel’s dependence on the US has become so deep that it is questionable whether the country could even survive today without it.

For Americans and Israelis alike, these are controversial assertions. Many Americans are critical of what they perceive to be ongoing Israeli disregard for US policy preferences, and even acts of defiance, despite an entirely asymmetric relationship and vast American aid. This is particularly true at a time when Israel is led by a hardline government. Israelis, for their part, do not wish to be this dependent on a foreign power, even one as friendly and well meaning towards Israel as the US, and they view Israel’s ongoing freedom of decision and manoeuvre as vital to its national security.

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Charles D. ‘Chuck’ Freilich is a former Israeli deputy national security advisor, and a senior fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center. He is also the author of Zion’s Dilemmas: How Israel Makes National Security Policy (Cornell University Press, 2012) and Israeli National Security: A New Strategy for an Era of Change (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2017).

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Survival: Global Politics and Strategy

August–September 2017

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