IntelligenceSquared Debates, July 2011
Israel believes America's special relationship is vital. It is, certainly, to Israel. But what about for the US? Israel has no oil, enemies in many places, and a tendency to defy Washington when it perceives its own interests to be threatened, which is not infrequently. In a zero sum Middle East, does America's coziness with Israel cost us in good will with Muslim world, including those oil-rich Arab states whose dollar holdings come back to the US in the form of investments and loans, which the US economy needs -- especially now?
But there's an important connection between the US and Israel -- that goes deeper than finance or energy convenience. It's a foundation of mutual loyalty and shared values -- democracy being only the most obvious. There has also been a history of shared intelligence, military cooperation, and significant cross-fertilization of scientific knowledge. To sacrifice these connections to improve relations with the Arab world would be an act of betrayal — of an ally — and of what we say we stand for.
Should the US consider putting some distance between itself and Israel? Would such a change in policy serve American interests, or is it a move we would come to regret?
For: Roger Cohen, New York Times columnist
For: Rashid Khalidi, Professor of Palestinian History, Columbia University
Against: Stuart Eizenstat, Former US Ambassador to the European Union
Against: Itamar Rabinovich, Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States
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