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Normalizing the Israel asset. The Reagan administration and the second cold war in the Middle East: leverage, blowback and the institutionalization of the US-Israel 'Special Relationship'

Dessí, Andrea T. (2018) Normalizing the Israel asset. The Reagan administration and the second cold war in the Middle East: leverage, blowback and the institutionalization of the US-Israel 'Special Relationship'. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science (United Kingdom).

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.doao4ukm98bu

Abstract

The US-Israel relationship reached a critical, institutionalizing juncture during the 1980s. Measurable in qualitative and quantitative terms, the Reagan administration had a transformative impact on bilateral ties, institutionalizing ad hoc forms of cooperation while modifying prevailing discourse to recognize Israel as an ‘ally’ and a ‘strategic asset’ in the Cold War. New bureaucratic agreements were signed, bilateral working groups formed and joint military exercises held throughout a decade that capped a long familiarization process between societies and political elites in the two countries. By the end of the 1980s, many of the bureaucratic frameworks that today still govern the US-Israeli relationship were institutionalized, as were those elements of preferential treatment commonly cited as proof for the ‘special’ or ‘unique’ nature of US-Israel ties. This study focusses on the institutional and bureaucratic dimensions of US support for Israel, examining the changing rationalizations for this support and the way this relates to the salient theme of a mutual struggle for influence and leverage over the policies of the other. Drawing on recently declassified documents, complimented with high-level interviews and other materials, the research answers three interrelated questions as to ‘why’ this institutionalization process was carried out, ‘how’ it would materialize and ‘what effects’ these processes would have on future US policy towards Israel and the Middle East. While predicated on an effort to enhance US leverage over Israel, the study argues that the institutionalization of the relationship would formalize interdependence between the two countries, consolidating a ‘policy straitjacket’ that has constrained presidential freedom of action towards both Israel and the broader Middle East. This has furthered the US’s ‘entrapment’ in a quasi-exclusivist relationship with Israel that has enhanced a process of ‘Israelization’ of US approaches and viewpoints on Middle East developments, harming US influence while transforming the US into an active participant and major obstacle to a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the broader stabilization of the Middle East.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2018 Andrea T. Dessí
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > International Relations
Supervisor: Gerges, Fawaz
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/3825

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