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A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z   This menu features recently updated backgrounders on people, places and subjects. To view all backgrounders, click More...
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last updated May 3, 2010 5:17 PM (EST+7)
US foreign policy
Read more: 
US policy, US foreign policy, Middle East, peace process, Israel, Palestinian state, two-state solution
The United States remains in the 21st century the only superpower and the most influential country in the world. The foreign policy of the United States is based on defending its national interests. According to the US State Department, its strategic goal is to create a more secure, democratic, and prosperous world for the benefit of the American people and the international community.

EnlargeMitt Romney is running for president of the United States in 2012.
Multimedia
Al-Jazeera Int: US President Barack Obama on 'seige' of Gaza
June 16, 2010 10:01 AM (EST+7)
Al-Jazeera Int: Riz Khan on a new US approach?
April 21, 2010 10:16 AM (EST+7)
al-Jazeera Int: Dining with Terrorists, Fighting Occupation Pt. 2.
March 8, 2009 9:34 AM (EST+7)
al-Jazeera Int: Dining with Terrorists, Fighting Occupation Pt. 1
March 8, 2009 9:03 AM (EST+7)
Background
Camp David II
Annapolis Conference
Camp David II
Documents
US President Barack Obama Addresses Israelis in Jerusalem - March 21, 2013
Press Conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and US President Barack Obama - March 21, 2013
Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel, March 6, 2012
Publications
Poll No. 79, March 2013 - Reconciliation, Obama Visit and Security Coordination
Poll No. 75, November 2011 - Perpetuation of the Palestinian Authority and US policy
Poll No. 74, June 2011 - Governance and politics
Resources
"US Munitions Delivered to Israel," Amnesty International, April 2, 2009
Remarks by the President Barack Obama on a New Beginning, Cairo University, Cairo, Egypt
Remarks To the American Task Force on Palestine, Hillary Clinton, October 20, 2010

ISOLATIONISM VS. INTERVENTIONISM

In US history, foreign policy had two basic tendencies. Isolationism prevailed in the 19th century, combining non-interventionist military policy and protectionism towards internal economic markets. In the 20th century, interventionism became more prominent in the US foreign policy, especially in World War II and its aftermath.

Two ideological blocks led by two superpowers -- the United States and the Soviet Union -- emerged and carried out the so-called "Cold War" for more than 40 years. During this period, US foreign policy of containment sought to impede the spread of Communism, leading the country into the Korean and Vietnamese wars.

There was also a brief period of détente in the middle of the Cold War, during which both sides tried to ease strained relations. However, this ended after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan (in 1979), causing US policymakers to worry that the Soviets were trying to control the Gulf. As a consequence, the US provided military and economic support for Afghan guerrillas throughout the 1980s.

END OF COLD WAR

With the end of the Cold War in 1989, US foreign policy underwent a major transformation with the US becoming the only superpower and focusing on the spread of democracy and human rights. According to the US State Department, democracy is a national interest that helps to secure all others.

A further turning point in US foreign policy occurred after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. The US administration, led by President George W. Bush, labeled this new foreign policy as the “War on Terror” and subsequently invaded Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003).

Under the new Obama administration (2009), however, US foreign policy is becoming more multilateral, focusing on diplomatic solutions and engaging the broader international community.

US MIDDLE EAST POLICY

US foreign policy towards the Middle East region is shaped by strategic security and economic interests. The Gulf region was defined as an area of US national interest since World War II, and gained vital importance during the Cold War era due to its oil reserves.

According to US State Department, among key US policy priorities is the promotion of peace and security in Israel and the Middle East. The United States strongly supports the two-state solution, Israel and a Palestinian state, living side-by-side in peace and security.

SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL

When Israel declared its establishment on May 14, 1948, US President Truman was among the first to recognize the provisional Jewish government. The following day, Arab states denounced the recognition, beginning the first Arab-Israeli war, also known as the 1948 war.

Prior to the 1967 war, the United States had been careful not to express favoritism towards any country in the Middle East region. However, as professors Mearsheimer and Walt put it, from 1967 onwards the centerpiece of US Middle Eastern policy has been its relationship with Israel. According to them, this unwavering support for Israel and the related effort to spread "democracy" throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardized not only US security but that of much of the rest of the world.

The October 1973 war between Israel and its Arab neighbors resulted in the Camp David peace treaty (1979), considered the beginning of the peace process.  As William B. Quandt says, sometime in the mid-1970s the term "peace process" was introduced to describe American-led efforts to bring about a negotiated peace between Israel and its neighbors.

During the Clinton administration, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict witnessed a major breakthrough in the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) on September 13, 1993. One year later, Jordan signed first a nonbelligerency agreement with Israel and on October 26, 1994, a peace treaty that indicated normalization of relations between both countries.

In 2000, the Camp David summit was one of the last attempts of Clinton administration to reinvigorate Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. This effort to negotiate the final status agreement led by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat eventually failed and, with the deteriorating peace process, the al-Aqsa intifada erupted.

From the beginning of his administration, President George W. Bush developed a good relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Previous US governments had denounced Israel’s settlement policy in the occupied Palestinian territories. Bush stated, however, that it was unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949. In 2005, US administration supported Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza Strip and George Bush said it was a positive step towards the road map for peace.

Under the administration of Barack Obama, the incoming Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed US support for Israel's military invasion of the Gaza Strip during the winter of 2008-09, saying that Israel has the right to self-defense. US officials also criticized as deeply flawed the Goldstone report that investigated violations of international humanitarian law in connection to the Gaza war.  

On June 4, 2009, President Obama delivered a speech at Cairo University calling for improved mutual understanding and relations between the Islamic world and the West.

In May 2010, the administration brought to a close an 18-month period of frozen negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis with the start of 'proximity' talks. Special envoy George Mitchell was to shuttle between the two sides for four months of talks over final status issues.

News on US foreign policy
Suspected Israeli revenge killing of Palestinian triggers clashesJuly 3, 2014 5:47 AM (EST+7)
US: Israeli-Palestinian peace process in holding patternApril 25, 2014 9:54 PM (EST+7)
UN peace envoy criticizes Israeli Easter security in JerusalemApril 20, 2014 4:36 AM (EST+7)


Sources
United States Policy toward the Middle East: a Dossier, US Embassy to Belgium
The recognition of the State of Israel, Harry S. Truman Library and Museum
Remarks by the President Barack Obama on a New Beginning, Cairo University, Cairo, Egypt
The Israel Lobby, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, London Review of Books, Vol. 28 No. 6, March 23, 2006
Bush Calls Israeli Withdrawal Plan Progress Toward Peace/Statement - USDOS press release, April 14, 2004
Goldstone defends UN Gaza report, BBC News website, September 30, 2009
Clinton says Israel has right to defend itself, Reuters, January 27, 2009



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