WHO ARE AMERICA'S ALLIES in the world today? Which countries are both capable and willing to advance American interests? A truly realist assessment would strive to answer these questions and fairly weigh Israel's worth.
In the Middle East, every Arab or non-Arab Muslim country has at times vacillated in its support of the United States or adopted anti-American positions. Some regimes have also placed oil embargoes on Americans and bankrolled their enemies. Although democratic governments may yet emerge in some Middle Eastern states, autocracy, monarchy, and dictatorship remain the region's norm. And even elected representatives can be profoundly hostile to the United States, as in Iran, Lebanon, and Gaza.
Elsewhere in the world, new powers are arising, but few are likely to act as American allies in the realist sense. Others will be robust competitors. America's European allies, meanwhile, are further restricting the conditions under which their forces fight and drastically slashing defense budgets. British military sources estimate that troop numbers will soon be reduced to 80,000, leaving Britain with its smallest army since the 1820s. With similar cuts expected in Germany, Italy, and France, the United States will become harder-pressed to rely on European support during crises."[W]e won't be able to defend the security on which our democratic societies … depend," NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has warned. "We risk a Europe increasingly adrift from the United States."
Israel is the only Middle Eastern state never to oppose America on major international issues. Its fundamental interests, like its values, are America's. For the price of annual military aid equaling roughly half the cost of one Zumwalt-class destroyer, the United States helps maintain the military might of one of the few nations actively contributing to America's defense. It reinforces the only country capable of deterring Hamas and Hezbollah and impeding the spread of Iranian hegemony. According to published sources, the Israel Defense Forces is larger than the French and British armies combined. The IDF is superbly trained and, when summoned, capable of mobilizing within hours.
These benefits of the U.S.-Israel relationship are of incalculable value to the United States, far outweighing any price. Americans know that Israelis have always stood by them, ready to share technology, intelligence, and innovation -- ready to aid them in conflict and to make the painful sacrifices for peace. Israel may be one of a handful of countries that fully fits the definition of ally, but its willingness to support the United States unwaveringly makes it the partner par excellence, America's ultimate ally.