by JONATHAN COOK | Counter Punch
It is possibly the greatest of American political myths, repeated ad nauseam by presidential candidates in their election campaigns. President Barack Obama has claimed that the United States enjoys a special bond with Israel unlike its relations with any other country. He has called the friendship “unshakeable”, “enduring” and “unique”, “anchored by our common interests and deeply held values”.
His Republican rival, Mitt Romney, has gone further, arguing that there is not “an inch of difference between ourselves and our ally Israel”. A recent Romney election ad, highlighting his summer visit to Israel, extolled the “deep and cherished relationship”.
But, while such pronouncements form the basis of an apparent Washington consensus, the reality is that the cherished friendship is no more than a fairy tale. It has been propagated by politicians to mask the suspicion — and plentiful examples of duplicity and betrayal — that have marked the relationship since Israel’s founding.
Politicians may prefer to express undying love for Israel, and hand over billions of dollars annually in aid, but the US security establishment has — at least, in private — always regarded Israel as an unfaithful partner.
The distrust has been particularly hard to hide in relation to Iran. Israel has been putting relentless pressure on Washington, apparently in the hope of manoeuvring it into supporting or joining an attack on Tehran to stop what Israel claims is an Iranian effort to build a nuclear bomb concealed beneath its civilian energy programme.
While coverage has focused on the personal animosity between Obama and the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, the truth is that US officials generally are deeply at odds with Israel on this issue.
The conflict burst into the open this month with reports that the Pentagon had scaled back next month’s joint military exercise, Austere Challenge, with the Israeli military that had been billed as the largest and most significant in the two countries’ history.
The goal of the exercise was to test the readiness of Israel’s missile-defence shield in case of Iranian reprisals — possibly the biggest fear holding Israel back from launching a go-it-alone attack. The Pentagon’s stationed in Israel but operated exclusively by a US crew, that would provide Israel with early warning of Iranian missiles.
A senior Israeli military official told Time magazine what message the Pentagon’s rethink had conveyed: “Basically what the Americans are saying is, ‘We don’t trust you’.”
But discord between the two “unshakeable allies” is not limited to Iran. Antipathy has been the norm for decades. Over the summer, current and former CIA officials admitted that the US security establishment has always regarded Israel as its number one counter-intelligence threat in the Middle East.