For decades, the US-Israeli security partnership has been a cornerstone of American foreign policy in the Middle East. Leaders of both nations frequently reaffirm their “special relationship.” Today, however, the viability of this relationship is challenged by disagreements over three foreign policy issues: the situation in the West Bank and Gaza, Iranian nuclear development, and regional upheaval in the wake of recent Arab uprisings.
This Capstone team examined historical antecedents from which to draw lessons about trends for each issue area. The team identified strategies adopted in the past and sources of friction that remain relevant today. Then, through research and interviews with American and Israeli analysts, diplomats, and policymakers, they considered how the US and Israel define vital interests and threats to those interests. The team also created an original framework to differentiate threats in terms of type, time frame, and level of likelihood. By distinguishing each partner’s perception of threat — low, medium, or high, and in some cases existential —the team compared their respective threat perceptions across cases. Finally, they analyzed the role that asymmetry, leverage, and prioritization plays in the security relationship. This methodology helped inform their recommendations for improved policy coordination in each issue area.
The resilience of the US-Israel relationship will be tested by its ability to adapt to divergences in interests and threat perceptions without causing a significant rift. Whether or not the US and Israel wisely coordinate their policies on these three significant issues will determine the future course of their security partnership.