Zionism, a movement promoting the founding of a Jewish state in Palestine that was conceptualized in the 1890s, immediately attracted a reasonable following. At first, Americans viewed Zionism as merely a marginal political group that only dealt with the domestic affairs of the Jews. That changed when Louis D. Brandeis emerged as the leader of American Zionism. Although Brande had resigned his post after being appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, he remained a beacon of the Jewish cause in the United States. In spite of some resistance in the British and American governments, Wilson, hard-pressed by Zionist leaders Chaim Weizmann and Loius D. Brandeis, supported the British government’s announcement regarding the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine (the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917). Going further back in history, the United States had been a breeding ground for the Zionist movement . Many Zionist leaders were based in the United States and strongly lobbied for the creation of an Israeli state (Sandler 942).
As a result of encouragement and support from the United States, the Zionist Organization of America rose rapidly to a membership of 200,000 immediately after Congress and President Warren G. Harding’s declaration of support for the Balfour Declaration. Though President Franklin Roosevelt did not endorse the Jewish cause, President Harry S. Truman did and endeavored in promoting the Jewish state. When the knowledge of the magnitude of the Holocaust came to light, the movement picked up further momentum and the American Emergency Committee for Zionist Affairs was the main force behind it (Sandler 936).
There are deep rooted cultural similarities between the United States and Israel. So much so, that many places in Israel look and feel just like America.
Also, the American model of democracy does not uphold ethnicity and religious affiliations. Thus, it is the model of a melting pot of different cultures. This is true of the Israeli society as well, though its democratic polity resembles European than American.
Humanism and Universalism, the two core American ideals have had a profound appeal to the secular Israelis. In fact, if most countries would adopt the Israel-U.S style of democracy, there would be much less geopolitical tension than what it is. (Atherton 1205)
The ramifications of the Cold War soon spread into the Middle East. The West did not want the oil-rich region to fall to communism and to negate Soviet influence over the region; the United States increased its foothold in the Middle East. The big prize for the West would be Palestine. Although the area of land comprising Palestine was relatively small, it nevertheless was strategically located stretching along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea and located between the Middle East and Northern Africa. Hence, the U.S. intervention in Middle Eastern affairs has a big element of self-interest in it. (McGeary 39)
The Jewish migration to Palestine saw a sharp increase in the decades after world war one. The population increased from 65,000 in 1919 to 650,000 by 1947. This deluge of humanity usurped lands traditionally belonging to the Palestinians, which angered the latter. In the mean time, President Truman accepted the stipulations put forward by the Peel Royal War Commission Report in the year 1937. However, due to the perceived unjustness of the partition, it was not implemented (Sandler 948).
In 1947, Great Britain, still reeling under the aftermath of World War Two, decided to transfer its control of Palestine to the United Nations. The United Nations’ Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) made a few recommendations. One of it is to partition Palestine. This was later adopted under UN Resolution 181, which also included a plan to allocate Greater Jerusalem as a common international area. This was never acceptable to the Palestinians and it resulted in a war shortly afterwards. (Tal 828)
“During the conflict, Haganah, a Jewish paramilitary defense organization, seized several territories, allowing Zionists to claim a clear victory. On May 14, 1948, the provisional government issued its Declaration of Independence. That same day, the Truman administration recognized the State of Israel. This action provoked the ire of Arab states which denounced the U.S. for perpetuating the systematic dispossession of Palestinians of their lands. With a massive immigration of European Jews that followed the war, Palestinian Arabs were evicted from their homeland, causing an international refugee crisis.” (Fernandez)
The period between 1949 and 1956 saw tensions escalate in the region as Jordan, Egypt and Syria endeavored to protect their respective borders from an Israeli invasion. In spite of negotiations by the UN to prevent armed conflict, in February 1955, Israel invaded the Gaza Strip in Egypt. The then Egyptian President Nasser, alarmed at his army’s incompetence approached the West for assistance, which they promptly refused. This left Egypt with no other option than to turn to the Soviet Union for military support (Tal 830).