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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

“Friends in Deed: Inside the U.S. – Israel Alliance”, by Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman

560 pages, Hyperion, ISBN-13: 978-0786860067

There is no more emotional, controversial, enigmatic, or purely dramatic political and strategic alliance in the history of the United States than its relationship with the State of Israel. Americans look at Israel in the 1990s and wonder: Why does America send billions of dollars every year to a tiny country on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean? Why are the United States and Israel such good friends? What are the secrets of their romance? Friends in Deed: Inside the U.S. – Israel Alliance explores the four decades of American/Israeli overt and covert cooperation and conflict – from the period before Israel’s statehood to the dramatic Middle East peace accords – and examines the emotions and controversy stirred by this powerful alliance. From the early Israelis’ clever ability to take advantage of the sympathy felt by Eisenhower and other U.S. military officers who witnessed the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps, to their inability to move the unsympathetic George Bush (who insisted that Israel not strike back during the Gulf War), this is a relationship built not only on global cooperation and strategy but on fierce emotional and domestic political agendas; indeed, there is probably no more intense or complex a relationship between nations in the world.

This book explores the entire dramatic history of the alliance: from the United States reluctant support for the newborn Jewish state, to the secret cooperation between the CIA and the Mossad, to the aiding of Israel’s nuclear program but then spying on it, to the connection between American mobsters and Israeli fundraising, to the American influence in the Middle East peace talks. One can wonder whether another book on the U.S.-Israeli relationship is really needed (especially one that is 20-years old), but this one at least has the virtue of being well-written and filled with tidbits of inside information. No grand theoretical framework is offered to explain this intimate connection; rather, the authors (Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman, who have written about intelligence matters before) tend to see the strategic sinews of the relationship as particularly important, which was especially true during the 1980s, but may be a waning asset. One can also question the view that “the United States usually can impose its will on Israel without twisting any arms”. The authors recognize that the relationship will inevitably change as time passes, but they remain sanguine that the two sides are tightly linked by interests and sentiment. Friends in Deed is a thorough and intricate work of investigation and research, giving us a new level of understanding of America's most intense international alliance.

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