The U.S. ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, recently indicated that Washington would support Israel if it took military action to stop Iran’s nuclear program, declaring that “Israel can and should do whatever they need to … and we’ve got their back.” Though not necessarily reflecting the official U.S. position—or what Washington might be telling Israel behind closed doors—Nides’ remarks were in line with a long history of U.S. policies that seemed to grant Israel a free hand in foreign policy. While former President Donald Trump fancied himself “Israel’s greatest friend,” the truth is that Washington’s seemingly unconditional support for Israel stretches back across presidential administrations.
That support is based on historical ties, with the U.S. being the first nation to recognize Israel when it was founded in 1948; shared values, given that Israel is one of the Middle East’s only democracies; and practical interests, as both nations have for decades viewed Iran as the region’s key threat. As then-President Barak Obama put it when he visited Jerusalem in 2013, “Together, we share a commitment to security for our citizens and the stability of the Middle East and North Africa … Together, we share a stake in the success of democracy.”
Obama’s remarks were echoed in the U.S. State Department’s current fact sheet regarding the basis for U.S.-Israel relations, which stated that “Americans and Israelis are united by our shared commitment to democracy, economic prosperity, and regional security.”