Saturday July 19, 2014
As Israel’s military kills and injures hundreds of civilians in Gaza—whose population Israel is legally obligated to protect as an occupying power—people around the world, including in the United States, wonder why official Washington appears so indifferent to even the most graphic instances of “collateral damage.”
The primary reason is that most American policy elites still believe the United States needs to dominate the Middle East, and that Israeli military assertiveness is instrumentally useful to this end—a mindset the Israel lobby artfully reinforces.
Since World War II—and especially since the Cold War’s end—the US political class has seen Middle Eastern hegemony as key to their country’s global primacy. For two decades following Israel’s creation, it contributed little to this; thus, the United States extended it virtually no military or economic assistance, beyond negligible amounts of food aid.
Washington started providing substantial assistance to Israel only after it demonstrated a unilateral capacity, in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, to capture and hold territory from Arab states allied, for the most part, with the Soviet Union. Support for Israel grew through the rest of the Cold War; after the Cold War, US policymakers doubled down on the US-Israeli “special relationship,” calculating that facilitating Israel’s military superiority vis-à-vis its neighbours would help solidify US post-Cold War dominance over the strategically vital Middle East.