ISRAEL IS heavily involved in Bush and Blair's war on Iraq. Top White House hawks like Richard Perle identify strongly with Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and his hard right Likud Party. Perle and other White House hawks want to reshape the Middle East to fit Israel's interests.
The Israeli army has been telling US troops heading for Iraq how to crush resistance in towns and cities based on their experience in Palestinian camps like Jenin. The man appointed to run the post-Saddam administration in Iraq, General Jay Garner, has strong links to Israel.
Some argue that the US's links to Israel is a result of the power, influence and votes of the 'Jewish lobby' in the US. The majority of those who make up the large pro-Israel lobby actually come from the Baptist Christians in the Bible Belt of the southern states in the US. But this lobby does not explain why the US backs Israel. Israel is the US's 'watchdog' in the strategically important, oil rich Middle East.
Israel was founded in 1948 when the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union was hotting up. The two superpowers competed for influence within the region. The US supported the partition of what was then Palestine to allow for the creation of Israel.
Israeli militias ethnically cleansed 750,000 Arabs and grabbed their homelands. US president Truman recognised the state of Israel just 11 minutes after it was declared. The pro-West Arab regimes in the area were vulnerable to rebellions by the people excluded from the oil wealth their states controlled. The US wanted a stable power in the Middle East. It gave a $100 million loan to Israel in 1949.
The growth of Arab nationalism in the early 1950s worried the US. The moderate Mossadeq government in Iran nationalised oil properties in 1951, challenging Western control of oil. Israeli leaders spotted an opportunity to make themselves useful to the West. The Israeli Ha'aretz newspaper, which was closely associated with the government, said during the Mossadeq crisis:
'Strengthening Israel helps the Western powers maintain equilibrium and stability in the Middle East. Israel is to become the watchdog. If for any reason the Western powers should sometimes prefer to close their eyes, Israel could be relied upon to punish one or several neighbouring states whose discourtesy to the West went beyond the bounds of the permissible.'
In 1956 radical Egyptian leader Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal inspiring a wave of Arab nationalist revolts. The US feared it was losing control. A US National Security document stated that the only 'logical' move 'would be to support Israel as the only strong pro-West power left in the Near East'. US economic and military aid to Israel increased.
In June 1967 Israel crushed the forces of Egypt, Syria and Jordan in six days. This convinced the US that Israel could be its attack dog in the Middle East. Ever since, the US has backed Israel to the hilt. It continues to give Israel around $3 billion every year. During Israel's war against Egypt and Syria in 1973 the then US president Nixon airlifted weaponry to Israeli forces.
'The strength and Western orientation of Israel and Iran safeguards US access to oil,' said US senator Henry Jackson in 1973. Jackson was known as the Senator from Boeing for his hawkish views. 'They have served to inhibit and contain those irresponsible and radical elements in certain Arab states who would pose a grave threat to our principal sources of petroleum in the Persian Gulf.' Richard Perle worked for Jackson early in his career.
Israel became even more important for the US after the Iranian Revolution overthrew the Shah in 1979. The US has a complex relationship with Israel. It supports Israel as its most stable ally in the Middle East. But US leaders also know they need the support of Arab rulers to keep the oil flowing.
The mass of Arab people are outraged by Israel's oppression of the Palestinians and the support it receives from the US. The US must therefore sometimes play down its links with Israel, and Israel may sometimes strain on its leash. But the master always controls it. Israel continues to be the outpost for US imperialism in the Middle East today. 'After the Cold War Israel's main task has not changed at all,' said General Shlomo Gazit, former head of Israeli military intelligence.
'Its location at the centre of the Arab Middle East predestines Israel to be a devoted guardian of the existing regimes - to prevent or halt the processes of radicalisation and to block the expansion of fundamental religious bigotry.' Any movement for democracy and freedom in the Middle East will have to challenge not just the power of the US but also its watchdog, Israel.