Earlier this week I mentioned that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence repeatedly called Israel “our most cherished ally” in a speech he gave during his visit there. I called that claim risible, and it is is, but it is such an inaccurate statement that it deserves a little more comment. American politicians from both parties frequently feel compelled to express excessive enthusiasm for the U.S.-Israel relationship, and that relationship is always described in terms of an alliance, but that doesn’t describe the relationship very well at all. The U.S. gains almost nothing from the relationship, there is no formal treaty that commits either state to the defense of the other, and one would be hard-pressed to think of anything that Israel has done that would make the U.S. more secure as a result of this relationship. So it is a mistake to call Israel an ally.
If Israel’s isn’t really an ally, it certainly can’t be the “most cherished” one that the U.S. has. I it were technically an ally, it would still be a mistake to exaggerate its importance in this way. The U.S. gets very little from the relationship at some considerable cost, and the relationship is far less valuable for U.S. security than our relationships with genuine treaty allies. It would be much more accurate to say that Israel is one of our more troublesome clients that is becoming an ever-greater liability to the U.S. as time goes by. The U.S.-Israel relationship would be less dysfunctional and possibly more constructive if our politicians and policymakers stopped lying to themselves and to the rest of us about the importance of that relationship for the U.S.