‘Arrow’ Mythology Revisited: The Curious Case of the Reagan Administration, Israel and SDI Cooperation

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When the Reagan administration first invited Israel to join the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) in 1985, Israel was only expected to play a relative minor role in the program and bid for non-sensitive research grants. However, starting in 1986, the focus of the endeavor began to shift. In time, the US was funding Israeli efforts to indigenously develop the Arrow, a missile defense system designed to use land-based interceptors to address regional ballistic missile threats. This was a sharp departure from the objectives of SDI and the imagined role that Israel was supposed to play within that initiative. This article addresses how and why this shift had occurred. I examine the existing narrative in the literature which maintains that Israel had initiated Arrow with the help of the Israel Lobby, and dispel it. I demonstrate that it was the Reagan administration, motivated by domestic political considerations, legal and diplomatic calculations, and strategic priorities, which pushed for Arrow’s initiation, despite reservations expressed by the Israeli government and the Israeli military.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1312-1329
Number of pages18
JournalInternational History Review
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2021


  • Arrow
  • Israel
  • Reagan
  • SDI
  • Star Wars

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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