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  1. Politics
11 March 2010

Why the US has let Israel off the hook again

Joe Biden insists that the US has "no better friend".

By George Eaton

How depressing to see Joe Biden revert to type and declare that the United States has “no better friend than Israel”.

The American VP had earlier delivered a refreshingly strong condemnation of Israel’s outrageous decision to announce approval for 1,600 new homes in occupied East Jerusalem.

But today Biden insisted that the US-Israel relationship was “impervious to any shifts in either country, and in either country’s partisan politics”.

Despite the moral and and political catastrophe of the Israeli occupation, the US position remains one of unconditional friendship. Why, even under the liberal Obama administration, is this so?

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I am not one of those who believes that the Israel lobby, most obviously the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, has an iron grip on US foreign policy. The lobby has far more of an affirmative than a causal effect on policy.

Instead, the extraordinary US-Israel relationship is based on some or all of the following: a shared Judaeo-Christian heritage; common support for market capitalism; Israel’s status as a strategic bulwark against Iran and Syria; and the common view (at least since the Six Day War) of Israel as a plucky little democracy in a sea of tyranny.

So long as these historical and political factors continue to have a decisive influence on the White House and the Obama administration, it is unlikely that we can hope for much progress.

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