The special relationship between the United States and Israel is based on a history of shared intelligence, military cooperation and a reverence for the Holy Land held by many in the United States.
But does America's close relationship with Israel come at too high a cost in the Muslim world? Should the U.S. consider stepping back from that relationship?
A group of experts tackled that thorny question in an Oxford-style debate, part of the Intelligence Squared U.S. series. Two argued for the motion, "The U.S. Should Step Back From Its Special Relationship With Israel," and two argued against.
In a vote before the debate, the audience at New York University's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts voted 33 percent for the motion and 42 percent against; 25 percent were undecided. After the debate, the audience was split almost evenly: 49 percent agreed that "The U.S. Should Step Back From Its Special Relationship With Israel," while 47 percent voted against the motion and 4 percent remained undecided.
The debate, held Feb. 9, was moderated by John Donvan, correspondent for ABC News' Nightline. Those debating were:
FOR THE MOTION
Roger Cohen joined The New York Times in 1990. He was a foreign correspondent for more than a decade before becoming acting foreign editor on Sept. 11, 2001, and foreign editor six months later. Since 2004 he has written a column for the Times-owned International Herald Tribune, first for the news pages and then, since 2007, for the op-ed page. In 2009, he was named a columnist of the Times.
Rashid Khalidi is the Edward Said professor of Arab studies at Columbia University. He was president of the Middle East Studies Association and was an adviser to the Palestinian delegation to the 1991-93 Arab-Israeli peace negotiations. Khalidi is the author of six books, including Sowing Crisis: The Cold War and American Dominance in the Middle East, The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood and Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness.
AGAINST THE MOTION
Stuart Eizenstat has held a number of key senior positions in three U.S. administrations, including chief White House domestic policy adviser to President Jimmy Carter (1977-81); U.S. ambassador to the European Union, undersecretary of commerce for international trade, undersecretary of state for economic, business and agricultural affairs and deputy secretary of the Treasury in the Clinton administration (1993-2001). Eizenstat is currently a partner at the law firm Covington & Burling LLP.
Itamar Rabinovich is Israel's former ambassador to the United States and was chief negotiator with Syria in the mid-1990s. He is the incumbent of the Ettinger Chair of Contemporary Middle Eastern History of Tel Aviv University and recently completed an eight-year term as the president of the university, where he has been a faculty member since 1971. He is currently a distinguished global professor at New York University and visiting professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
The Intelligence Squared U.S. series is produced in New York City by The Rosenkranz Foundation.