Eleven minutes after the proclamation of Israel's independence on 14 May 1948, American President Harry S. Truman extended recognition to the new state. This act marked the beginning of a relationship based on common values and was characterized by deep friendship and mutual respect. Both countries are vibrant democracies whose political and legal systems are anchored in liberal traditions; both began as pioneer societies; and both are still absorbing and integrating new immigrants. At times the two countries have 'agreed to disagree,' settling their differences as friends and allies.
At the same time that the United States was beginning to develop its diplomatic and political relations with Israel, it also joined other Western countries in an arms embargo to the Middle East, believing that by so doing regional tensions would be significantly reduced. After 1952, the Eisenhower administration's pursuit of Arab support for a Middle East security pact foreshadowed a radical departure from the Truman administration's partiality towards Israel.
Relations between Washington and Jerusalem only drew closer again in the late 1950s following American disillusionment with Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser's policies. During the Kennedy administration, the previous American policy on arms supplies was reversed with the lifting of the existing embargo.
Since the latter part of the Johnson administration in the late 1960s, American diplomacy has been based on a commitment to Israel's right to exist within secure and recognized boundaries to be achieved through direct negotiations with its Arab neighbors.
Believing that a strong Israel is a sine qua non for attaining peace in the region, the United States committed itself to maintaining Israel's qualitative edge over Arab armies. During the Nixon and Carter administrations, it assisted in concluding disengagement agreements between Israel and Egypt and Israel and Syria (1973-74), the Camp David Accords (1978) and the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty (1979).
During the Reagan administration, relations not only flourished, but were also given a more formal and concrete content. In addition to previous commitments, memorandums of understanding were signed (1981, 1988), forming the basis for setting up a number of joint planning and consultative bodies, which in turn generated practical arrangements in both military and civilian fields. These frameworks of mutual cooperation were subsequently codified in a wider memorandum (1988).
The first Bush administration endorsed Israel's peace initiative (1989) and co-sponsored the Madrid Peace Conference (1991), which led to the convening of peace talks in Washington, D.C.
The Clinton administration played a key role in the Middle East peace process by actively supporting the agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel's peace treaty with Jordan, negotiations with Syria and efforts to promote regional cooperation, including an end to the Arab boycott. Pledging to maintain Israel’s qualitative edge, it also committed itself to minimizing the security risks that Israel might incur in its pursuit of peace. The George W. Bush administration took several important measures to back Israel in its war against terrorism, and Israel supports President Bush’s vision for achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
The continuing and deepening amity between Israel and the United States has been defined by various American administrations in terms ranging from the preservation of Israel as a 'basic tenet' of American foreign policy, with emphasis on a 'special relationship' between the two nations, to a declaration of an 'American commitment' to Israel. By the early 1980s, Israel was regarded by the United States as a 'strategic asset' and was designated (1987), in accordance with legislation passed the previous year, as a 'major non-NATO ally.'
Congressional backing for Israel is bipartisan. Support for annual military assistance, the peace process and Israel’s struggle against terrorism have been hallmarks of Congress' commitment to United States-Israel friendship, as was the passage of legislation (1995) recognizing Jerusalem as the united capital of Israel and calling for the establishment of the United States Embassy in Jerusalem. The 'special relationship' encompasses mutual economic, political, strategic, and diplomatic concerns. Israel currently receives some $2.6 billion a year in security and economic aid, and bilateral trade has been enhanced by the Israel - United States Free Trade Area Agreement (1985).
A growing number of joint ventures sponsored by Israeli and American industrial firms have been established, and several American states have entered into 'state-to-state' agreements with Israel, involving activities ranging from culture to agriculture.
The United States usually stands by Israel’s side in international forums, staving off attempts both in the United Nations and in associated bodies to push through anti-Israel resolutions. The two countries have been cooperating to their mutual advantage in exchanges of intelligence and military information, as well as in the war against international terrorism and the campaign against drugs. United States-Israel friendship is bolstered by support from the American-Jewish community and a wide segment of American society.
PM Netanyahu with US President Obama at the UN, Sept 2011