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Arms Transfers to Israel

The Strategic Logic Behind American Military Assistance

David Rodman is the author of Defense and Diplomacy in Israel’s National Security Experience: Tactics, Partnerships, and Motives (Sussex Academic Press, 2005). He has also published articles on the Arab–Israeli conflict in various professional journals, including Middle Eastern Studies, The Journal of Strategic Studies, MERIA Journal, Israel Affairs, Defence Studies, and Air & Space Power Chronicles.

This book dispels two common myths about the American–Israeli patron–client relationship – that arms transfers to Israel have been motivated by American domestic politics rather than national interests and that these arms transfers have come without any political strings attached to them.

The first part of the book describes and analyzes the institutionalization of the American–Israeli arms pipeline during the Johnson administration, demonstrating conclusively in the process that arms transfers to the Jewish state were based primarily on American national interests. The second part of the book consists of four case studies that clearly reveal that American arms transfers to Israel, whether in wartime or in peacetime, have always come with a diplomatic price tag attached to them.

The book is based largely on American government documents from the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series, from the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library, and from the United States National Archives.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-178-8
Hardback Price: £32.50 / $45.00
Release Date: February 2007
Page Extent / Format: 156 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No


List of Illustrations

Introduction: The American–Israeli Relationship in Historical Perspective
The Early Years of the American–Israeli Relationship
The Birth of the American–Israeli Patron–Client Relationship

Part I How the Arms Relationship Emerged
1 The Israeli Quest for Arms: Western Europe and the United States
Arms Acquisition for a Jewish State
From the 1950 Tripartite Declaration to the 1956
Sinai Campaign
From the Sinai Campaign to the Hawk Sale

2 Armored Breakthrough: The 1965 Sale of M-48 Patton Tanks to Israel
The Road to the Sale
The German Option to the Fore
Water Woes and Arms Flows
The Harriman–Komer Mission to Israel

3 One Step Forward and One Step Backward: The 1966 Sale of A-4 Skyhawk Aircraft to Israel and the Post-1967 Six-Day War Arms Embargo
The Israeli Wish List and the American Reaction
The Road to the Sale
The Post-Six-Day War Arms Freeze
The Demise of the Arms Freeze

4 Air Support: The 1968 Sale of F-4 Phantom Aircraft to Israel
The Arab–Israeli Air Balance
The Road to the Sale
The Consummation of the Sale

5 National Interests or Domestic Politics?: The Rationale Behind American Arms Sales to Israel in the 1960s
The (Minor) Role of Domestic Politics in Arms Sales to Israel

Part II How the Arms Relationship Has Operated
6 The 1967 Six-Day War: A Delayed "Green Light" for Preemption
The Prewar Crisis
Analysis of American and Israeli Conduct

7 The 1969–1970 War of Attrition: Restricting Israel's Military Options
Escalation and Deescalation During the War
Analysis of American and Israeli Conduct

8 Peacetime Arms Transfers: The Nixon, Carter, and Reagan Administrations
The Nixon Administration
The Carter Administration
The Reagan Administration
Analysis of American and Israeli Conduct
Conclusion: The Costs of an Alliance and the Benefits of a Patron–Client Relationship
The American Perspective
The Israeli Perspective
Into the Future

Select Bibliography

Rodman's study of U.S. arms transfers to Israel provides important insight into this critical and oft-misunderstood element of the strategic relationship. Relying on extensive U.S. archival research, the book details the evolution of this relationship from Israel's early reliance on Western European equipment through the start of U.S. arms sales during the Johnson era to the end of the Reagan administration. … As Rodman deftly points out, Israel's conduct during the 1967–1973 period is ‘not comprehensible unless it is examined in the context of the American-Israeli patron-client relationship.’ Arms Transfers to Israel provides a comprehensive picture of the origins and development of the U.S.–Israeli military assistance relationship. In doing so, although not intentionally, Rodman's study goes a long way toward dispelling the now fashionable myth that the strategic relationship with Israel is driven primarily by domestic U.S. politics.
Middle East Quarterly

This study makes the subject of U.S. arms to Israel highly accessible and in that manner fills a gap in the literature on U.S.–Israeli relations. The author explains in clear and lucid fashion the strategic background to several major arms deals. At the same time, his analysis places in perspective both the issue of Israel’s nuclear capability and the role of the pro-Israel lobby in the United States. [It is] a concise and well-written account of the evolution of the framework in which the United States sells Israel arms. Rodman argues convincingly that the type of relationship he desribes is clearly in the interest of both countries and likely to remain the setting for their bilateral ties for a long time.
Israel Studies Forum

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