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American policy toward the Arab-Israeli conflict has reflected dueling impulses at the heart of US-Middle East relations since World War II: growing support for Zionism and Israeli statehood on the one hand, the need for cheap oil resources and strong alliances with Arab states on the other, unfolding alongside the ebb and flow of concerns over Soviet influence in the region during the Cold War. These tensions have tracked with successive Arab–Israeli conflagrations, from the 1948 war through the international conflicts of 1967 and 1973, as well as shifting modes of intervention in Lebanon, and more recently, the Palestinian uprisings in the occupied territories and several wars on the Gaza Strip. US policy has been shaped by diverging priorities in domestic and foreign policy, a halting recognition of the need to tackle Palestinian national aspirations, and a burgeoning peace process which has drawn American diplomats into the position of mediating between the parties. Against the backdrop of regional upheaval, this long history of involvement continues into the 21st century as the unresolved conflict between Israel and the Arab world faces a host of new challenges.


Karim Elkady

Since the 1830s, Egyptian regimes have sought US governmental support to assist Egypt in gaining its independence and enable it to act freely in the region. Because historically the United States had no territorial interests in Egypt, Egyptian leaders solicited this strategic connection as potentially a leverage first against the Ottoman Empire, France, and England from the 1830s to World War I, then later against the British military occupation until 1954, and finally against Israel’s occupation of Sinai from 1967 to 1973. Egypt also courted US assistance to support its regional ambitions, to assume leadership of the Arab World, and to stabilize the Middle East. Later, the economic and financial challenges that Egypt has faced in its recent history have led it to request and rely on US military and economic aid. US interests in Egypt have shifted during their relationship. Initially the United States was interested in trade and protection of private US citizens, especially its Protestant missionaries. But after World War II and the rise of the United States to a position of global leadership, US motives changed. Due to US interests in Persian Gulf oil, its commitment to defend Israel, and its interest in protecting Egypt against the control of hostile powers, the United States became more invested in securing Egypt’s strategic location and utilizing its regional political weight. The United States became involved in securing Egypt from Axis invasions during World War II and in containing Soviet attempts to lock Egypt into an alliance with Moscow. After a period of tense relations from the 1950s to the early 1970s, Egypt and the United States reached a rapprochement in 1974. From that time on, the Egyptian–US strategic partnership emerged, especially after the Camp David Accords, to protect the region from the Soviet Union, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Iraq under Saddam Hussein, and then to contain the rise of terrorism.