Middle East: Mortal Friends

The relationship has always been a rather special one, occasionally baffling outsiders. "I don't understand you Americans backing Israel," Soviet Premier Aleksei Kosygin told Lyndon Johnson in 1967. "There are 80 million Arabs and only 3 million Jews. Why do it?" Johnson shot back: "Because it's right." Yet, as Ronald Reagan's anger over Israel's siege of West Beirut demonstrated last week, that "right"relationship can sometimes confound, even infuriate, the two nations.

In May 1948 the U.S. became the first nation to recognize the newly created state of Israel. Relations reached their lowest ebb during the Eisenhower Administration. In 1956, Israeli forces, together...

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