The U.S.-Israel Special Relations: Structural Foundations and Trump Factor

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2020-64-10-40-51
A. Davydov (,
Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation;
L. Samarskaia (,
Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation

Abstract. The article examines the evolution of U.S.–Israel special relations in order to estimate the scale and longevity of Trump’s policies effects towards Israel. By the start of the 2016 presidential electoral campaign, the state of bilateral relations had been frequently considered as damaged due to the decisions of the Obama administration to engage in negotiations with Iran and to abstain from vetoing the U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334. Contrary to that, Donald Trump was consistent in his absolutely anticritical and pro-Israel positions, realizing all his initial promises regarding the Jewish state. By the end of his first term, he significantly shifted the well-established framework of the American traditional policies towards Israel. This raises a question on whether such dynamics might become a pattern in U.S. – Israel relations, and what might be the prospects for these relations being seriously determined by the U.S. internal polarization. The study covers the dynamics in key areas that define the strategic structure of the U.S.–Israel partnership. The first part of the article addresses the trends in bilateral and international relations that originated in the late 19th century and eventually led to the establishment of allied relations. Those trends are: a gradual rise of mutual importance in foreign policy strategies of both states; institutionalization and strengthening of pro-Israeli political forces in the United States. Both trends impeded a crisis in bilateral relations after the end of the Cold War. The second part concludes that since 1967, both states refer to each other as key strategic allies with common values, and that the range of their cooperation was framed in a specific spectrum of topics, most of which were Israeli-centered. The third part analyses the activity of the main pro-Israeli lobby groups in their support or opposition to the U.S. electoral campaigns and Congress legislature, and the views of the American public towards Israel. The authors find that the U.S. polarizations trends also affected the views in the lobby, but it never reflected upon the final legislature process, which is mostly pro-Israel. The fourth part addresses the asymmetrical nature of bilateral cooperation in trade, security and in the bodies of the United Nations. Finally, the fifth part of the article covers the policies of Obama and Trump administrations and the attitudes towards them of the main political forces in Israel and the United States. Those attitudes reflect the formation of two camps in both countries with polar incompatible views on the key issues of bilateral relations. The authors conclude that due to the structural asymmetry of the U.S. – Israel relations, their dynamics will be mostly defined by the changes in the grand strategy and the polarization of the United States. Nevertheless, the complexity and a large number of influential groups interested in maintaining the exceptional level of cooperation will prevent from undermining the structural foundations of the U.S.–Israel special relations in the foreseeable future.

Keywords: special relationship, USA, Israel, U.S. – Israel relations, foreign policy, Trump, Obama, Netanyahu, Middle East


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For citation:
Davydov A., Samarskaia L. The U.S.-Israel Special Relations: Structural Foundations and Trump Factor. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2020, vol. 64, no. 10, pp. 40-51.

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