Israel: Background and U.S. Relations

Jim Zanotti, Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

June 1, 2015, Congressional Research Service

 

RL33476

Israel: Background and U.S. Relations

Congressional Research Service

Summary

ΙσραήλSince Israel’s founding in 1948, successive U.S. Presidents and many Members of Congress have demonstrated a commitment to Israel’s security and to maintaining close U.S.-Israel cooperation. Common perceptions of shared democratic values and religious affinities have contributed to the strong bilateral ties. The question of Israel’s security regularly influences U.S. policy considerations regarding the Middle East, and Congress provides active oversight of executive branch dealings with Israel and other actors in the region. Israel is a leading recipient of U.S. foreign aid and a frequent purchaser of major U.S. weapons systems. By law, U.S. arms sales cannot adversely affect Israel’s “qualitative military edge” over other countries in its region. The two countries signed a free trade agreement in 1985, and the United States is Israel’s largest trading partner. Israel has many regional security concerns and aligning U.S. and Israeli policies to address these concerns has presented persistent challenges. By voicing criticism of international diplomacy on Iran’s nuclear program, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu may seek to give Israel a voice in an ongoing negotiating process in which it does not directly participate. As a June 2015 deadline nears for a comprehensive international agreement on the issue, Israel apparently seeks material

assurances that the United States will bolster its regional security standing and self-defense capabilities. In addition to concerns over Iran, Israel’s perceptions of security around its borders have changed since 2011 as several surrounding Arab countries have experienced political upheaval. Israel has shown particular concern about threats from Hezbollah, the Islamic State organization, and other non-state groups in ungoverned or minimally governed areas in Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, as well as from Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip. Israel’s political impasse with the Palestinians continues. Questions about Netanyahu’s commitment to a two-state solution could affect U.S. and international diplomatic initiatives. The Palestinians advance various diplomatic and legal initiatives of their own despite U.S. and Israeli concerns about increasing international “isolation” of Israel. Israel has militarily occupied the West Bank since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, with the Palestinian Authority exercising limited selfrule in some areas since the mid-1990s. Activities facilitated by successive Israeli governments have resulted in approximately 500,000 Israelis living in residential neighborhoods or “settlements” in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. These settlements are of disputed legality under international law. Israel considers all of Jerusalem to be the “eternal, undivided capital of Israel,” but Palestinians claim a capital in East Jerusalem and some international actors advocate special political classification for the city or specific Muslim and Christian holy sites. Although Israel withdrew its permanent military presence and its settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005, it still controls most access points. The territory presents complicated security and political challenges for Israel. Despite its unstable regional environment, Israel has a robust economy and a vibrant democracy, though how to incorporate Arab citizens into the state and society remains challenging. Recent

exploitation of offshore natural gas raises the prospect of a more energy-independent future, while economic debates focus largely on cost-of-living and inequality issues. Israel’s demographic profile appears to affect its political orientation. Various leaders vie for public support by interweaving ideology with ethnic, religious, socioeconomic, and national security considerations. After a March 2015 election victory, Netanyahu formed a coalition government in May with a number of right-of-center and religious parties. Many observers doubt the durability of the government because it represents a narrow 61-59 Knesset majority.

 

Israel: Background and U.S. Relations

Congressional Research Service

 

Contents

Introduction …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 1

Country Background ………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 3

Historical Overview ……………………………………………………………………………………………………. 3

Demographic and Political Changes……………………………………………………………………………… 4

Government and Politics …………………………………………………………………………………………….. 5

Overview …………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 5

Israeli Government Following March 2015 Elections ……………………………………………….. 6

Economy …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 9

Israel’s Security Concerns ………………………………………………………………………………………………. 10

General Threat Perceptions ……………………………………………………………………………………….. 10

Challenges from Iran and Arab Neighbors …………………………………………………………………… 11

Iran …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 12

Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq ……………………………………………………………………………………… 14

Egypt ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 15

Rocket Threat from Lebanon and Gaza………………………………………………………………….. 17

The Palestinian Issue and Possible Israeli Options………………………………………………………… 18

Concerns Regarding International Isolation and Economic Effects …………………………………. 20

International Political and Legal Initiatives ……………………………………………………………. 21

The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement ……………………………………… 22

Relations with Europe and Other Countries ……………………………………………………………. 23

Key U.S. Policy Issues ……………………………………………………………………………………………………. 26

Overview ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 26

Recent Differences Among Leaders and on Key Issues …………………………………………………. 27

Security Cooperation ………………………………………………………………………………………………… 29

Background ……………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 29

Recent U.S. Legislation ……………………………………………………………………………………….. 30

Preserving Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME) ………………………………………………. 31

U.S. Security Guarantees? ……………………………………………………………………………………. 33

U.S. Aid and Arms Sales to Israel …………………………………………………………………………. 34

Iron Dome and Missile Defense Cooperation …………………………………………………………. 35

Israeli-Palestinian Issues …………………………………………………………………………………………… 37

Peace Process Diplomacy and International Involvement ………………………………………… 37

Jerusalem …………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 41

Settlements ………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 47

Sensitive Defense Technology and Intelligence Issues ………………………………………………….. 50

Israeli Arms Sales to Other Countries ……………………………………………………………………. 50

End-Use Monitoring ……………………………………………………………………………………………. 51

Espionage and Espionage-Related Cases ……………………………………………………………….. 52

Israel’s Nuclear Status and Nonproliferation ………………………………………………………………… 53

Bilateral Trade Issues ……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 54

Figures

Figure 1. Israel: Map and Basic Facts …………………………………………………………………………………. 2

Israel: Background and U.S. Relations

Congressional Research Service

Figure 2. Israeli Knesset …………………………………………………………………………………………………… 7

Figure 3. Greater Jerusalem …………………………………………………………………………………………….. 45

Figure 4. Jerusalem: Old City, U.S.-Relevant Sites, and Some Other Sites ……………………………. 46

Figure C-1. Eastern Mediterranean Energy Resources Map …………………………………………………. 60

Figure C-2. Israel’s Primary Energy Consumption Mix ………………………………………………………. 61

Figure C-3. Israel’s Natural Gas Production, Imports, and Consumption ………………………………. 61

Tables

Table 1. Israeli Security Cabinet Members ………………………………………………………………………….. 7

Table 2. U.S. Bilateral Aid to Israel ………………………………………………………………………………….. 35

Table 3. Defense Budget Appropriations for U.S.-Israeli Missile Defense: FY2006-

FY2016 Request …………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 36

Appendixes

Appendix A. U.S.-Based Interest Groups Relating to Israel …………………………………………………. 55

Appendix B. Descriptions of Israeli Knesset Parties and Their Leaders ………………………………… 56

Appendix C. Natural Gas Resources and Export Possibilities ……………………………………………… 59

Contacts

Author Contact Information…………………………………………………………………………………………….. 66

 

Israel: Background and U.S. Relations

Jim Zanotti

Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

June 1, 2015

Congressional Research Service

7-5700

http://www.crs.gov

RL33476

Israel: Background and U.S. Relations

Congressional Research Service

Για το αρχείο σε μορφή PDF κλικ Israel_ Background and U.S. Relations

 

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Κατηγορίες:Διεθνείς Σχέσεις, Δοκίμια, Επιστημονικά δοκίμια, Ισραήλ, Μέση Ανατολή, Μεσόγειος, Στρατηγική

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