Home inFocus Israel: Beyond the Headlines (Spring 2016) The U.S. and Israel: Shared Culture, Common Destiny

The U.S. and Israel: Shared Culture, Common Destiny

Senator Pat Toomey Spring 2016

The United States and Israel share a unique strategic partnership and friendship. This relationship started in the early years of the Jewish State when President Harry Truman proudly recognized the State of Israel. As Truman’s White House counsel Clark Clifford declared:

In an area as unstable as the Middle East, where there is not now and never has been any tradition of democratic government, it is important for the long-range security of our country, and indeed the world, that a nation committed to the democratic system be established there, one on which we can rely. The new Jewish state can be such a place. We should strengthen it in its infancy by prompt recognition.

This relationship blossomed during the Cold War, as the U.S. military relied on Israeli intelligence to gain the upper hand against the Soviet Union. And today, as the Middle East disintegrates into violent chaos, this relationship grows all the more important.

Today, the U.S. uses Israel’s expertise and ingenuity to help deter internal and external threats to our homeland. All levels of the U.S. military participate in joint exercises with Israel, from the Navy, to the Army, to the Air Force. U.S. police officers travel to Israel to train and learn new counter-terrorism techniques. Advanced military weaponry, such as the Iron Dome and the Arrow missile defense systems, benefit both countries. The U.S. repeatedly coordinates with Israel for intelligence support, advice on urban warfare and airport screening techniques, and the development of cutting-edge weaponry. It should come as no surprise that we employ many Israeli-made weapons, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which have played a crucial role in America’s counter-terrorism activities.

The U.S.–Israel relationship goes beyond military cooperation. Israel may be a tiny country, but it is a leader in technology, medicine, business, agriculture, and many other fields. Every day, citizens of the globe benefit from Israeli inventions, including the cell phone, Internet phones, voicemail technology, the drip irrigation system, the first ingestible video camera, the most secure flight security system in the world, and countless other products and services. Israel has the second highest number of start-up companies in the world and the third largest number of NASDAQ companies listed.

U.S. companies manufacture many Israeli weapons, creating jobs here in America, while many major American companies have developed incubators in Israel to take advantage of its high-tech industry. Microsoft, Google, Apple, 3M, and GE all have research and development facilities in Israel.

Israel is a Moral Ally

This strategic relationship pays dividends to both countries. But it is just as important to remember that Israel is a moral ally. Our two countries are joined by an unwavering commitment to democratic ideals. Free speech, open elections, and religious freedom are values found on the streets of Pittsburgh and Jerusalem alike.

Israel’s unique status in the world was born of its urgent necessity – a homeland for an oppressed people built on the most natural of rights: The right to exist, to practice religion freely, to have a voice, to be an equal citizen of the world.

If anyone can appreciate this necessity, it is the United States – a country considered new by the yardstick of history, born out of religious persecution and political oppression. We call the American birth a revolution – not just because we are a country forged in battle, but because creating a brand new nation is truly revolutionary – if not miraculous.

So it is with Israel. Over the centuries, the Jewish people have managed to maintain a permanent presence in the Holy Land, despite enduring hardship. Still, no one gave much credence to the idea of a Jewish homeland. When the early wave of European Jews settled in a malaria-infested Palestine in the late 19th century, a betting man would have gambled against the early Zionists. In 1897, Theodor Herzl, one of the founding fathers of Zionism, declared: “At Basle, I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today, I would be answered by universal laughter. If not in five years, certainly in 50, everyone will know it.”

Senator Pat Toomey
Senator Pat Toomey

Indeed, 67 years after the declaration of an independent Jewish state, Israel stands as a testimony to the universal ideals of human rights and democracy. Not unlike the American Declaration of Independence, the Israeli version declares: “The State of Israel… will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed or sex; will guarantee full freedom of conscience, worship, education and culture.” This commitment to Western values has produced a flourishing country the size of New Jersey. Out of the desert, the Jewish people built world-class companies and schools, revived an ancient language, created a formidable military, and welcomed new citizens from around the world. It is understandable that many religious Jews recite the prayer called “Hallel” – or “praise” on Israel Independence Day every year – because the birth of the Jewish State is truly a miraculous occurrence, unparalleled in the archives of history. David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s George Washington, said it best: “In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles.”

The fact that Israel has paved this path in the face of constant attack is all the more remarkable. Israel remains a moral necessity for the nations of the world. No other democracy flourishes in the Middle East. No other people have employed industry and intellect with such success and in the face of so many odds. Nor has any nation so thoroughly embraced other groups, so readily conferred citizenship to other nationals as the State of Israel.

In 1948, in the midst of attacks from its Arab neighbors, the Israeli founders extended a hand of friendship and a guarantee of citizenship to Arabs living there. They appealed to Arab residents to join in “the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.”

Together in the Face of Danger

This mutual commitment to Western ideals binds us in history, but it also binds us in the new and dangerous challenges we face on the global stage. Western civilization has so much to be proud of – a standard of living that surpasses the rest of the globe; respect for minority rights; personal freedom; and self-governance. But these ideas are under attack. We should be proud to rise up in defense of western civilization and its ideals. We should be proud to defend Israel because she is part of us.

Today, radical terrorists in Iraq and Syria have their targets aimed on both Israel and the United States. The tragic events of Paris and San Bernardino are shattering reminders that we cannot and should not isolate ourselves from the world.

At the same time, Iran’s goal of building a nuclear arsenal is approaching the point of no return. Thanks to President Obama’s nuclear deal, Iran has been relieved from the shackle of global sanctions, and billions of dollars are pouring into a country that continues to call for “death to America.”

In a dangerous actualization of Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown, we can fully expect Iran to violate this latest deal just as it has violated numerous international agreements in the past. Only a few months ago, in December of last year, the International Atomic Energy Agency released a report stating that Iran has been lying about its nuclear program for years. In the fall of 2015, Iran tested nuclear capable missiles – directly violating U.N. Security resolutions.

The Iran nuclear agreement is so dangerous because of the pretense that underlies it: That a theocratic oligarchy grounded in an all-or-nothing worldview will somehow behave reasonably if international pressure is relieved. The truth is the opposite. An enemy emboldened does not become a friend, only a more dangerous enemy.

As strategic partners and moral cousins, Israel and the U.S. are bonded by a shared history and the prospect of dangerous future. We are brothers in arms, political comrades. We are friends. We are allies. We are each other’s hope for a free and safe world where people of all nationalities and all faiths can live without fear. Our mutual hope for security is only possible when we join together in strategic alliances, but also in the moral certainty that our values and our way of life are worth defending.

Pat Toomey is a Republican Senator from Pennsylvania. He can be followed on Twitter @SenToomey.