What are the Limits of the U.S.-Israel Alliance?

To what extent can Israel exercise unilateral action in the face of external threats like the Iranian nuclear program without angering its longstanding ally the United States?

An article from Gideon Levy for Haaretz claims that Israel is the “cricket chirping in the background about Iran,” a small state increasingly forced into a position in which it must unilaterally determine the Iranian nuclear question. To quote Gideon Levy: “Netanyahu’s Israel has dictated the global agenda as no small state has ever done before, just as its international standing is at its nadir and its dependence on the United States at its zenith.” He claims there is no rational explanation for Israel’s ability to dictate foreign policy direction to the United States.

Indeed, Israel figures into domestic political life in the U.S. in a way that no other state does. North Korea is a problem, but few people worry about a presidential candidate’s stance on North Korea. Additionally, religious organizations and interfaith NGO’s exist in the United States to promote Israeli-American friendship and alliance, presenting a multilayered approach to relations between the two countries mirrored only by the U.S.-Japanese alliance. Gideon Levy writes that Israel’s unilateral actions dictate the terms of engagement to the United States but as the title of his article implies, “It’s Just a Matter of Time Before U.S. Tires of Israel,” there is a definite credit limit in the relationship between the two states. Will Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tell Obama that an attack on Iran must be launched and will this put pressure on Obama to do so during an election year?

But should American troops be dedicated to another conflict that is initiated by Israel? Does the American public have the stomach for another major war, one that will likely be much more destructive than those fought in Iraq and Afghanistan? Unilateral action on the part of Israel is not preferred but, if forced, it may begin a chain of events beyond both states’ control.