Why Does the U.S. Support Israel?

Why does the United States so strongly support Israel? Geopolitical Economy Report editor Ben Norton interviewed economist Michael Hudson to explore the reasons why Israel is such an important part of U.S. foreign policy and Washington’s attempt to dominate not only the region of the Middle East, but really the entire world.

It is crucial to stress that Israel is an extension of U.S. geopolitical power in one of the most critically important regions of the world.

In fact, it was current U.S. President Joe Biden, back in 1986, when he was a senator, who famously said that, if Israel didn’t exist, the United States would have to invent it:

If we look at the Middle East, I think it’s about time we stop, those of us who support, as most of us do, Israel in this body, for apologizing for our support for Israel.

There is no apology to be made. None. It is the best $3 billion investment we make.

Were there not an Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interest in the region; the United States would have to go out and invent an Israel.

I am with my colleagues who are on the floor of the Foreign Relations Committee, and we worry at length about NATO; and we worry about the eastern flank of NATO, Greece and Turkey, and how important it is. They pale by comparison…

They pale by comparison in terms of the benefit that accrues to the United States of America.

First of all, it goes without saying that the so-called Middle East, or a better term is West Asia, has some of the world’s largest reserves of oil and gas, and the entire economic infrastructure all around the world relies on fossil fuels.

The world is gradually moving toward new energy sources, but fossil fuels are still absolutely critical to the entire global economy. And Washington’s goal has been to make sure that it can maintain steady prices in the global oil and gas markets.

But this is about something much bigger than just oil and gas. The U.S. military’s stated policy since the 1990s, since the end of the Cold War and the overthrow of the Soviet Union, is that the United States has tried to maintain control over every region of the world.

This was stated very clearly by the U.S. National Security Council in 1992 in the so-called Wolfowitz Doctrine. The U.S. National Security Council wrote:

[The United States’] goal is to preclude any hostile power from dominating a region critical to our interests, and also thereby to strengthen the barriers against the reemergence of a global threat to the interests of the U.S. and our allies. These regions include Europe, East Asia, the Middle East/Persian Gulf, and Latin America. Consolidated, nondemocratic control of the resources of such a critical region could generate a significant threat to our security.

Then, in 2004, the U.S. government published its National Military Strategy, in which Washington stressed that its goal was “Full Spectrum Dominance – the ability to control any situation or defeat any adversary across the range of military operations”.

Now, historically, when it came to the Middle East, the U.S. relied on a so-called “twin pillar” strategy. The west pillar was Saudi Arabia, and the east pillar was Iran. And until the 1979 revolution in Iran, the country was governed by a dictator, a shah, the monarch, who was backed by the United States and served U.S. interests in the region.

However, with the 1979 revolution, the U.S. lost one of the pillars of its twin pillar strategy, and Israel became increasingly important for the United States to maintain control over this crucially strategic region.

It is not just the massive oil reserves and gas reserves in the region; it is not just the fact that many of the world’s top oil and gas producers are located in West Asia.

top 10 oil producer countries 2022 cropped

It is also the fact that some of the most important trading routes on Earth also go through this region.

It would be difficult to overstate how important Egypt’s Suez Canal is. This connects trade from the Middle East going into Europe, from the Red Sea into the Mediterranean, and around 30% of all of the world’s shipping containers pass through the Suez Canal. That represents around 12% of the total global trade of all goods.

Then, directly south of the Suez Canal, where the Red Sea enters the Arabian Sea, you have a crucial geostrategic choke point known as the Bab al-Mandab Strait, right off the coast of Yemen. And there, more than 6 million barrels of oil pass through every single day.

EIA Bab al Mandab strait oil

Historically, the United States has tried to dominate this region in order to maintain control not only of energy supplies, but also to ensure these global trade routes that the entire globalized neoliberal economic system is built on.

And as U.S. influence in the region has weakened in an increasingly multipolar world, Israel has become increasingly important for the United States to try to maintain control.

We can see this clearly in the discussions over oil prices through OPEC, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which has essentially been expanded and is now known as OPEC+ to include Russia.

Now Saudi Arabia and Washington’s archenemy, Russia, play a key role in determining global oil prices.

Historically, Saudi Arabia was a loyal U.S. proxy, but increasingly Riyadh has been maintaining a more non-aligned foreign policy. And a very big reason for that is that China is now the biggest trading partner of many of the countries in the region. For a decade, China has been the largest importer of oil and gas from the Persian Gulf.

Furthermore, through its global infrastructure project, the Belt and Road Initiative, China is moving the center of world trade back to Asia. And in the Belt and Road Initiative, the “road” in particular is a reference to the New Silk Road.

China Belt and Road Initiative Saudi Iran Middle East

Can you guess which region is absolutely crucial in the New Silk Road and the Belt and Road Initiative? Well, of course, it’s the Middle East – or, again, a better term is West Asia, and that term actually much better explains the geostrategic importance of this region, because it connects Asia to Europe.

This also explains why the United States has been so desperate to try to challenge the Belt and Road with its own attempts to build new trade routes. In particular, the U.S. is trying to make a trade route going from India into the Persian Gulf, and then up through Israel.

So in all of these projects, Israel plays an important role, as an extension of U.S. imperial power in one of the most important regions of the world. That is why Biden said back in 1986 that if Israel didn’t exist, the U.S. would have to invent it.

That is also why Biden repeated this in a White House meeting with Israel’s President Isaac Herzog on October 27, 2022:

We’re also going to discuss the ironclad commitment – and this is, I’ll say this 5000 times in my career – the ironclad commitment the United States has to Israel, based on our principles, our ideas, our values; they’re the same values.

And I have often said, Mr. President [Herzog], if there were not an Israel, we would have to invent one.

And even as recently as October 18, 2023, Biden once again repeated the same thing in a speech he made in Israel: “I have long said, if Israel didn’t exist, we’d have to invent it”.

In that speech in 2023, Biden traveled to Israel in order to support the country as it was carrying out a brutal bombing campaign in Gaza, and ethnically cleansing Palestinians as part of what many experts around the world have referred to as a “textbook case of genocide”.

Top United Nations experts have warned that the Palestinian people are in danger of genocide by Israel.

And the United States has steadfastly been supporting Israel, because once again, as Joe Biden said, Israel is an extension of U.S. imperial power in West Asia; and if it didn’t exist, Washington would have to invent it.

READ the full transcript here.

Michael Hudson is an American economist, Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri–Kansas City and a researcher at the Levy Economics Institute at Bard College, former Wall Street analyst, political consultant, commentator and journalist. Hudson graduated from the University of Chicago (BA, 1959) and New York University (MA, 1965, PhD, 1968).

( Source: Geopolitical Economy Report )

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