U.S.-Israel Shared Value Initiatives:
By Mitchell G. Bard
The U.S.-Israel relationship is based on the twin
pillars of shared values and shared interests. Given this commonality
of interests and beliefs, it should not be surprising that support for
Israel is one of the most pronounced and consistent foreign policy
values of the American people.
Although Israel is geographically located in a
region that is relatively undeveloped and closer to the Third World
than the West, the Jewish State has emerged in less than half a
century as an advanced nation with the characteristics of Western
society. This is partially attributable to the fact that a high
percentage of the population came from Europe or North America and
brought with them Western political and cultural norms. It is also a
function of the common Judeo-Christian heritage.
Simultaneously, Israel is a multicultural society
with people from more than 100 nations, including more than 45,000 who
came in the dramatic airlifts
from Ethiopia in the 1980s. Today, approximately four in ten
Israelis are Eastern or Oriental
Jews who trace their origins to the ancient Jewish communities of
the Islamic countries of North Africa and the Middle East.
While they live in a region characterized by
autocracies, Israelis have a commitment to democracy no less
passionate than that of Americans. All citizens of Israel, regardless
of race, religion or sex, are guaranteed equality before the law and
full democratic rights. Freedom of speech, assembly and press is
embodied in the countrys laws and traditions. Israels
independent judiciary vigorously upholds these rights.
system does differ from Americas Israels is a
parliamentary democracy but it is still based on free elections
with divergent parties. And though Israel does not have a formal
it has adopted "Basic
Laws" that establish similar legal guarantees.
Americans have long viewed Israelis with
admiration, at least partly because they see much of themselves in
their pioneering spirit and struggle for independence. Like the United
States, Israel is also a nation of immigrants.
Despite the burden of spending nearly one-fifth of its budget on
defense, it has had an extraordinary rate of economic
growth for most of its history. It has also succeeded in putting
most of the newcomers to work. As in America, immigrants to Israel
have tried to make better lives for themselves and their children.
Some have come from relatively undeveloped societies like Ethiopia or
Yemen and arrived with virtually no possessions, education or training
and become productive contributors to Israeli society.
Israelis also share Americans passion for
education. Israelis are among the most highly educated people in the
world. Twenty-nine daily newspapers are published in 10 languages.
More books are published per capita in Israel than anywhere else.
From the beginning, Israel had a mixed economy,
combining capitalism with socialism along the British model. The
economic difficulties Israel has experienced created largely in
the aftermath of the 1973
Yom Kippur War by increased oil prices and the need to spend a
disproportionate share of its Gross National Product on defensehave
led to a gradual movement toward a free market system analogous to
that of the United States. America has been a partner in this
In the 1980s, attention increasingly focused on
one pillar of the relationship shared interests. This was done
because of the threats to the region and because the means for strategic
cooperation are more easily addressed with legislative
initiatives. Despite the end of the Cold War, Israel continues to have
a role to play in joint efforts to protect American interests and
strategic cooperation has progressed to the point where a de facto
alliance now exists. The hallmark of the relationship is consistency
and trust: The United States knows it can count on Israel.
It is more difficult to devise programs that
capitalize on the two nations shared values than their security
interests; nevertheless, such programs do exist. In fact, these Shared
Value Initiatives (SVIs)
cover a broad range of areas such as the environment, energy, space,
occupational safety and health. Nearly 400 American institutions in 47
states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have received funds
programs with Israel. Little-known relationships like the Free
Trade Agreement, the Cooperative
Development Research Program, the Middle
East Regional Cooperation Program and various memoranda of
understanding with virtually every U.S. governmental agency
demonstrate the depth of the special relationship.
Source: Partners for Change