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Choppy times in U.S.-Israeli relations

4 min

A rift between President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Gaza red lines has set up a potential showdown between the two leaders, raising questions about whether the U.S. might restrict military aid if Israel goes ahead with a ground offensive in the south of the enclave.

U.S. President Ronald Reagan (2nd R) and his advisers meet with an Israeli delegation including Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin (3rd L) and Israeli Defence Minister Ariel Sharon (L) in Washington in this September 9, 1981 file handout picture released by the Government Press Office. Reuters/Ya'acov Sa'ar/GPO

A rift between President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Gaza red lines has set up a potential showdown between the two leaders, raising questions about whether the U.S. might restrict military aid if Israel goes ahead with a ground offensive in the south of the enclave.

The United States has been a staunch ally of Israel since President Harry Truman became the first world leader to recognize the newly established state in 1948.

But strains have emerged in the normally solid ties over the decades. Here are milestones:


President Harry Truman becomes the first world leader to recognize the newly-established Israel.


Furious at Israel's capture of the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt in a campaign with France and Britain, the administration of President Dwight Eisenhower insists on unconditional Israeli withdrawal and threatens to suspend vital U.S. financial aid to Israel unless it withdraws.


The U.S. stands behind Israel in a war with surrounding Arab states. But relations are jolted by Israel's attack in international waters on the Liberty, a U.S. spy ship. Thirty-four American seamen are killed and 174 wounded.


President Richard Nixon rushes to Israel's aid with an airlift of military hardware after Egypt and Syria, which lost territory in the 1967 conflict, launch the 1973 war.


The U.S. administration of President Gerald Ford threatens to reappraise U.S. ties with Israel unless it signs a "disengagement" treaty with Egypt to pull back from the Sinai peninsula, captured in 1967.


President Jimmy Carter hosts signing of peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, concluded in talks at Camp David.


The U.S. condemns Israel's bombing of Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor.


In a telephone call to Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, President Ronald Reagan expresses what a spokesman calls "outrage" over Israeli bombing raids in Beirut during a war in Lebanon, and pressures him into a ceasefire.


Secretary of State James Baker says U.S. growing weary of Israeli foot-dragging over peace negotiations with the Palestinians and recites White House telephone number, urging both sides "to call us when you are serious about peace".


President George Bush Sr. pressures Israel to stay out of first Gulf War, concerned that an Israeli attack on Iraq would cause a U.S.-led coalition to disintegrate.

Washington withholds $10 billion in loan guarantees sought by Israel to absorb the immigration of Soviet Jews, piling pressure on Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to attend the Madrid peace conference. Bush cites the best interests of the peace process in justifying the postponement, and says he will not grant the guarantees unless Israel freezes settlement building.


Bush approves Israel's loan guarantees request after Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin offers a limited curtailment of settlement building.


President Bill Clinton hosts a handshake between Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at the signing of a Declaration of Principles on interim Palestinian self-government.


Clinton hosts summit between Arafat and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Wye River, Maryland. Netanyahu agrees to hand over more occupied land to Palestinian control.


President George W. Bush announces "road map" peace plan, three years after start of Palestinian uprising, setting an outline for an end to violence and return to statehood talks.


Bush tells Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon "existing major Israeli population centers" -- an indirect reference to Jewish settlement enclaves in the West Bank -- make it "unrealistic" to expect Israel to return to armistice lines drawn in 1949.


Bush tells Israel's parliament the unbreakable bond between Israel and the U.S. runs deeper than any treaty and is grounded in the shared link to the Bible.


The administration of President Barack Obama is furious with Israel for announcing the building of more settler homes around Jerusalem during a visit by Vice President Joe Biden. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls the move "insulting".


Netanyahu lectures Obama in the White House Oval Office days after Obama stated publicly that "the borders between Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines".


Obama says the international community does not believe that Israel is serious about a two-state solution.


Obama, in the final weeks of his presidency, allowed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement building to be adopted by withholding the U.S. veto. It breaks with a history of U.S. shielding Israel at the U.N.


Reversing decades of U.S. policy, President Donald Trump recognises Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The new U.S. embassy opens in 2018.


The Trump administration recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, territory captured from Syria in the 1967 war. The U.S. is the only country to do this.


Oct. 7 - U.S. President Joe Biden offers Israel "all appropriate means of support" after the Palestinian militant group Hamas launches its Oct. 7 attack on Israel, and warns "any party hostile to Israel" not to seek advantage.

Dec. 12 - Biden warns Israel it was losing international support because of its "indiscriminate" bombing of civilians in its war against Hamas militants.


Feb. 8 - Biden says he seeks a "sustained pause in the fighting".

Feb. 11 - Biden tells Netanyahu Israel should not launch a military operation in Rafah without a credible plan to ensure the safety of the roughly 1 million people sheltering there.

Feb. 27 - Netanyahu says he has consistently resisted pressure to end the war prematurely and this stand has popular U.S. support.

March 9 - Biden says Israel’s threatened invasion of Rafah would be his “red line” for Netanyahu but then backtracks, saying there is no red line and "I’m never going to leave Israel." Biden says his message to Netanyahu about civilian casualties is that he is "hurting Israel more than helping" by acting in a way "contrary to what Israel stands for."

March 12 - Netanyahu says that Israel would press forward with its military campaign into Rafah.

Compiled by Tom Perry




U.S. special envoy Amos Hochstein arrives in Beirut

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