US-Israeli Relations Dossier

Tough Love? The Future of US-Israel Relations

Adapted from: "Danger : High voltage," Leonid Mamchenkov (CC-BY). "Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu addresses the UN General Assembly," Africa Renewal (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0). "Barack Obama in Tampa - June 22nd," Barack Obama (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0). . Creative Commons License LogoThis image is licensed under Creative Commons License.

Editorial:

Both Germany and the U.S. have, for different reasons, a special relationship to Israel characterized by close political, economic, and military ties. While this relationship has so far remained largely intact, some subtle but substantial changes are underway. This web dossier highlights various aspects of change and continuity in U.S.-Israeli relations. Professor Daniel C. Kurtzer, Professor at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, and Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen, Director of the Arab-Israeli Programs at the United States Institute of Peace, address the current diplomatic storm in U.S.-Israeli relations: Professor Kurtzer comments on the heightened tensions between current and former U.S. and Israeli administrations, especially with regard to the Iran nuclear deal, whereas Ms. Kurtzer-Ellenbogen explores if and how the U.S. should continue to engage in the paralyzed Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The articles by Dr. Dahlia Scheindlin, Public Opinion Researcher and contributor at +972 Magazine, and Alan Elsner, Vice President for Communications at JStreet, examine the dynamics in popular perceptions: While Allan Elsner focuses on changes underway in the Jewish-American community, Dahlia Scheindlin takes a closer look at shifts in public opinion more generally. Libby Lenkinski, Vice President for Strategy at the New Israel Fund, explores identity politics and responses to diversity in the U.S. and Israel. Finally, Lara Friedman from Americans for Peace Now evaluates the successes and failures of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activists, and Professor Dan Rabinowitz from Tel Aviv University formulates a progressive response to the movement. 

We hope this dossier contributes to a deeper understanding of political and social developments under way in the U.S. and Israel that will shape their ties in the future. Ignoring these developments will not serve us, even if we do not like what we see. Changing things for the better always begins with assessing reality for what it is. 

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Never before has the US-Israel relationship been as fraught as it is today. The Profound differences in strategic outlook vis-à-vis Iran, the Palestinian issue, and the toxic interpersonal relations between the US President and the Israeli Prime Minister all contribute to a tense political atmosphere. Will the bilateral relationship recover?

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The Israeli-Palestinian conflict arena is once again beset with violence. The parties have retrenched to recriminations and hardline positions, and once again the US faces the question of how to get things back on track. Is US engagement really worthwhile?   

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The relationship between the Israeli and American public appears strong. But the romantic vision of Israel is descending from its perch above US politics, and Americans increasingly examine Israel through the prism of their broader political views.  

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The battle over the Iran deal has shattered AIPAC’s myth of invincibility, as well as the notion that supporting Israel requires the American-Jewish community to unquestioningly support the Israeli government. The way is now open to a more nuanced concept of what support of Israel can and should entail.

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Those convinced that Israel should not have been created in the first place, or that it no longer has the right to exist, are entitled to their opinion. But they have obligations, too. They must come clean about seeking a post-Israel endgame. An essay by Prof. Dan Rabinowitz

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Support for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) targeting Israel is growing, generating great angst amongst Israel supporters – including pro-peace progressives – in the United States and elsewhere in the world. How can pro-peace progressives respond to the BDS movement?

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Both Arab Israelis and Mizrahi Jews are increasingly reluctant to shed their Arab identity in order to fit in with the dominant concept of what it means to be Israeli. A new generation is emerging.  

About:

This web dossier highlights various aspects of change and continuity in US-Israeli relations. On the political level, it addresses the increasingly partisan divide on Israel in US politics, as well as heightened tensions over the Iran nuclear deal and the paralyzed peace process. On the societal level, it delves into the challenge posed by identity politics in the US and Israel, and analyzes how public opinion is shifting. We hope that the web dossier will serve as a platform for open reflection and critical dialog. 

The stakes are too high, and for too many, for the US to walk away.
Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen

The Heinrich Boell Stiftung has been funding projects in Israel since 1992. The office in Tel Aviv opened in 1998. The work in Israel takes place in the complex and multidimensional context of German-Jewish relations, German-Israeli relations and the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab conflict.

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