A history of the sometimes-fraught, occasionally tense, but always essential relationship between the United States and Israel.
Ross is not only a recognized expert on Middle Eastern affairs. He also worked in the George H.W. Bush State Department as director of policy planning and has served as Bill Clinton’s Middle East Peace envoy and a special assistant to President Barack Obama. So when he writes about American politics in the Middle East, readers should pay attention. The author provides a largely dispassionate history of American policy toward Israel, from President Harry Truman, who was present at Israel’s birth as a nation-state, to the seemingly contentious relationship the Obama administration has cultivated with Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel. Yet Ross sees more continuity than disjunction in the relationship between the two countries, especially after presidents Truman and Eisenhower struggled to find a way to reconcile Israel’s place in both Middle Eastern and Cold War politics. For the author, when foreign policy has shifted slightly away from its most Israel-friendly moorings, the purpose has been a concern for relations with the rest of the region. Ross sees this approach as being both shortsighted and ineffective. Yet he also points out that Obama is hardly as hostile to Israeli interests as some have painted him, even while the tensions between the two countries seem to have heightened. Throughout this illuminating book, the author writes clearly and elucidates the complexities of not only the U.S.–Israel relationship, but of the larger Middle Eastern picture. He comes neither to bury nor praise the administrations in which he has worked or those in which he did not; as a consequence, readers will benefit from a front-row vantage point without encountering a myopic perspective.
Ross provides a learned, wise template for understanding the long-term relationship between two countries tethered to one another out of shared self-interest and geopolitical necessity and yet with sometimes-conflicting senses of the way forward.