Doomed to Succeed

Relations between the United States and Israel

Relations between the United States and Israel have been complex at best. Various US presidents have entered the arena and carried out their responsibilities to the best of their abilities given the circumstances. All, however, have eventually failed to achieve and secure their objectives in the Middle East because they work on certain assumptions in their relationships with their Israeli counterparts. Ross takes readers through every administration in the United States, from Truman to Obama, and the events that drove the various leaders to pursue different policies, with each demonstrating a shift from the other. In this book review, the discussion looks at the assumptions that have characterized the US-Israeli relations that have failed to accomplish and secure goals in the Middle East.


From the onset, the book demonstrates that the US-Israeli relations have been characterized by tensions, dynamics and arguments. These have characterized the relations since the founding of the state of Israel. Although the relationship has endured, the lessons from every major event in the relationship have not been examined. In the policymaking process that characterizes the relationship, some core assumptions are made.

Expounding on assumptions

To expound on these assumptions, Ross explains that America's policy towards Israel has tended to be as a result of two approaches: President's Clinton, Reagan, Truman, and W Bush focused on shared values between the countries and hence pursued interest that both countries shared. However, due to the closeness between the nations, the relationship failed to result in securing and accomplishing some long-lasting goals in the Middle East because it has tended to push the Arab allies away from US (Ross 30). For example, it tended to push countries such as Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia away from the influence of the US and hence away from a lasting peace and security in the Middle East. Towards this end, it is n surprise that Clinton and President Bush, despite their closeness to the Israelis were unable to achieve lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Bush was principled and Clinton had extraordinary energy and political capital but were both unable to achieve peace during their time in power.

Approach of different administrations

Presidents Nixon, Eisenhower and George H Bush viewed this relationship as part of a zero-sum dynamic that is subordinate to the relations between America and its Arab allies in the region. Hence, some policy makers thought that positive actions towards Israel could undermine their relationship with Arab allies. Some of the policy makers such as the Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough and Susan Rice, the National Security Advisor have argues that the US-Israeli relationship is a one-way street. To them, the relationship costs much and offers little.

The importance of Israeli input

The relationship with the Arab allies was forged as a result of shared interests ranging from reliability, survivability and security with these Arab allies. The book outlines that the assumption failed in bearing fruits because in reality, the US was getting military information, intelligence and counter-terror support from the Israelis. Ignoring the importance of the input of the Israeli would lead to serious imbalance in the relationship.

Obama's approach

The third category is on an assumption done by Obama's approach that incorporates elements from the two sides of the policy spectrum. In this assumption, the Obama administration viewed security as a relationship separately carried out from political affairs but also being capable of openly criticizing Israel when she has not lived up to her values.

Evolution of policies

Historically, the strategy of policymakers to distance themselves from the Jewish state in order to influence decision making have often failed. For Obama, he believed that it would be counterproductive to Isolate Israel. On the other hand, he believed that the US should distance itself from Israel thereby not developing a structure based on positive incentive. Ross points out that not even Obama's approach was fruitful because in order for the relationship to have been productive, the president should have placed the historical issue of settlement in context and even visited Tel Aviv after his Cairo speech in 2009 in order to balance the relations (Ross 69). However, the book commends the policies of his administration because they evolved. Ross argues that although Obama took office believing that the US needed to distance itself from Israel, his policies evolved and worked to prevent the delegitimization of Israel from the International community. Hence, Obama was involved in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because it was a means by the international community to embrace Israel. Consequently, he did make the Israeli policy makers aware that their policies would have consequences.

Trump's administration

On the other hand, Trump's administration is likely to distance itself from Israel because his administration has been based on isolating the US away from the rest of the world. The recent pulling out of the US from the climate change negotiations in France is a sign that his administration will be based on minimal contact and essential contact with the rest of the world. As a result, his administration may leave Israel to manage its conflict with Palestine. Such a detriment may be detrimental to the peace efforts because time and again, Israel does not always demonstrate how far it is willing to negotiate for peace. As the book had argued, leaving Israel unchecked might lead her to bully the Palestinians into conflict and this would ultimately lead to her being delegitimized by the international community.

"Palestinian Question"

The "Palestinian Question" is an important agenda in the US-Israeli relations because it is a testing ground for the US and her Arab allies (Ross 110). Most of the Allies in the Middle East are US allies but also are Israeli foes. As Ross explains, letting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict go on risks the wrath of the Arab allies. From past negotiations, Israel has seemingly been reluctant to pursue negotiations possibly due to her military power but the application of the same leads to more hatred with her Arab neighbors. As Ross argues, the conflict in the Middle East is many sided with many interests and this makes the relations between the US and Israel to be complicated at best.


Hence, what emerges is that over the past years, policy makers in the US have felt that a relationship that is too close to Israel would harm the relationship between the US and her Arab allies and ultimately jeopardize America's position in the Middle East. On the other hand, creating a relationship that isolates Israel ignores the vital role that Israel plays in the region. For example, the conflicts in the Middle East are directly or indirectly linked to Israel and her role in the region. In this book, the author chronicles in details the many proposals and initiatives as well as roadmaps used over the years in managing the US-Israeli relations.

Work Cited

Ross, Dennis. Doomed to Succeed: The U.S.-Israel Relationship from Truman to Obama. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015. Print.

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