By Alex Day
Despite violations of international law and a series of human rights abuses, why does the United States continue its unwavering financial, diplomatic and military support for Israel? What’s in it for them? Why does America love Israel so much?
The country receives more American aid than anyone else in the world – the Congressional Research Service found that since Israel’s formation in 1948, America has sent over a quarter of a trillion dollars in aid (adjusting for inflation). Trillion. With a T.
The reason has nothing to do with sympathy stemming from the awful treatment of Jewish people during World War II: America’s motivations are practical, in terms of the advancement of international political strategy and pressure from a very rich and powerful evangelical lobby, a fervently pro-Israel group that Trump hopes to maintain his support from.
There are both hilariously ludicrous and militarily logical reasons for American support for Israel. Massive lobbying groups of evangelical Christians make up one of the most powerful voting blocs in American politics, a group that believes the Jewish people’s return to Israel will fulfil a Biblical prophecy that will eventually lead to the second coming of Jesus Christ.
This belief is called Christian Zionism, and is a central aspect of the ideology of the largest pro-Israel lobby in the world. Evangelicals largely interpret the Bible literally, not metaphorically – and, citing prophetic scripture as evidence, believe the Jewish people’s return to Israel will bring the second coming of the Son of God. Lobby groups work by funnelling money into politics in order to drive legislative and policy decisions: in the case of the evangelical lobby, they pressure the government to continue and escalate support for Israel (amongst other issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage).
Mike Pompeo and Mike Pence, the U.S. Secretary of State and the Vice President respectively, are both strong evangelical Christians and have incredible influence in shaping American foreign policy. Pompeo, on same-sex marriage, once said : “we will continue to fight these struggles, it’s a never ending struggle… until the rapture”. Yikes.
There are, however, more strategic reasons for America’s support based on more understandable logic than Biblical prophecies, although the notion that their support comes from the goodness of the American heart out of sympathy for the Holocaust is simply untrue. Israel is America’s greatest ally in the world; indeed, they share democratic ideologies and a Judeo-Christian sense of morality.
During the Cold War, a strong American ally in the Middle East made sense upon a purely military basis. It would provide a buffer against Syria, who the Soviets were then patrons for. Israel has also acted as a conduit for American arms sales that would be met with public outcry at home, apartheid South Africa being a prime example.
Major American funding for Israel only began after the controversial 1967 war where Israel seized large amounts of Palestinian land – after the conflict, U.S. aid shot up by 450%. When Israel demonstrated its potential to curb revolutionary movements in the region with their 1970 war with Jordan, American aid escalated another sevenfold. Combined, this would support the notion of geopolitical and Cold War motivations acting behind America’s relationship with Israel. It provided a strong ally in a region traditionally made up of enemies.
The military-industrial complex is also at play here – Israel is contractually bound to use a large majority of American military aid to purchase from America itself. Although no American troops are stationed there, their military interests are also very much aligned. With regard to intelligence, the U.S. and Israel share information with each other that advances mutual interest – the countries worked together to develop effective malware that temporarily halted Iran’s nuclear programme without bloodshed.
If American strategic interests are honoured, the nation appears quite happy to strengthen its allies that carry out flagrant violations of international law and human rights treaties – having a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, America can veto any U.N. efforts to take action against them.
Despite the strategy underscoring the Americans’ relationship with Israel, evangelical influence is undeniable at this stage. There are almost seventy million evangelical Christians in America, largely centred in the country’s ‘Bible Belt’ region that overwhelmingly voted Trump. Huge evangelical megachurches are raking in revenue and gaining a lot of political power – in a country where cash is king and finance creates lobbying which in turn drives policy, evangelical ideology is only strengthening the resolve of American support.
Texan pastor and televangelist John Hagee has raised over seventy million dollars for Israel and founded the lobby group CUFI (Christians United For Israel). He openly promotes the ‘blood moon’ prophecy, which states that a series of lunar eclipses will bring the rapture and second coming of Christ. A large portion of the lobby’s money is directed towards the construction of illegal Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory.
Bold decisions such as moving the American-Israeli Embassy to Jerusalem and Trump’s ‘Peace Plan’ (which very much favours Israeli belligerence) could all be read as calculated moves to affirm the support of the evangelical voter base essential for his re-election, or certainly decisions supported and encouraged by his two closest advisors. Some will perceive such choices as advances closer towards the second coming of Christ – a point in time where scripture argues all nations will be judged on how they treated Zion.
Israel is obviously appreciative of these decisions, but they come at great cost for the evermore marginalized Palestinians. To display their gratitude, a ceremonial Trump coin was minted by influential Israeli nongovernmental organization. Further, a new Israeli settlement in the contested Golan Heights region has been named ‘Trump Heights’.
The idea that American religious lobbyist groups are funding the violation of international law is absolutely shocking. Although it may have begun for strategic, Cold War purposes, there is now a very wealthy and very pro-Israel lobby that makes American support unlikely to dial down – especially under Trump, who heavily depends on the evangelicals for support in re-election. Trump has given the evangelical lobby an unprecedented level of influence over government. Therefore, messianic prophecies over two thousand years old are now, in one way or another, influencing and driving foreign policy in today’s modern age.