America and Israel's Unique Connection

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America and Israel's Unique Connection

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Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert came to Washington this week to confer with President George Bush on the critical issues facing Israel with its Middle Eastern neighbors, particularly Iran. In the wake of the mid-term congressional elections Israel wanted reassurance on Mr. Bush's direction in light of the calls for direct negotiation with Syria and Iran on the war in Iraq. The picture of an Israeli Prime Minister coming to Washington looking for American support is a familiar sight. This has been happening since 1948 with the birth of the State of Israel and it shows the unique relationship between the two countries-one that is rooted in politics and culture but one overlain with a deep spiritual connection.

Two factors are forcing President Bush to take a fresh look at Iraq. The first is the Democratic sweep of power in both the Senate and House of Representatives. Incoming House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi is committed to "finding a solution" to what she calls the "Iraq situation". Translated that means she intends to push for a pullout of American troops from Iraq and ending American involvement in what she and many others feel is a failed effort. Secondly, Mr. Bush is waiting for the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, an independent group of  set up to study and make recommendations on Iraq and the larger Middle East peace process. It is rumored that one recommendation will be to seek the support of Iran and Syria in ending the sectarian violence in Iraq and settling the fractured nation. Israel is worried that could mean a compromise on the American stance toward Iranian nuclear development.

This week Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad promised his countrymen that full nuclearisation will come before the end of the Iranian year next March. He also claimed that the United States and its allies had "finally agreed to live Iran possessing the nuclear fuel cycle." This was quickly denied by America but it is clear that the Iran is closer than ever to achieving a nuclear weapon. The Financial Times said on November 15 that the International Atomic Energy Agency put out a report showing Iran's progress toward a nuclear weapon. The IAEA report, if accurate, says Iran is still short of the weapons grade material needed to produce a nuclear weapon.

Iran's leader has made continual threats against Israel and many feel was the provocation behind the militant group Hezbollah's push at Israel in July which ignited the conflict where Israel invaded Lebanon. Iran is also felt to be behind the Shiite attacks in southern Iraq. Any talk by America of talking with Iran to reach an accommodation causes concern for Israel. The stakes are high in their neighborhood and they cannot afford a miscalculation or delay. Their very existence depends on the ability to anticipate their enemies next move and at times to act preemptively in order to preserve their state.

This has happened before and I will explain that in my next post.