By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
In 2016, Israel is a major contributor to – and a global co-leader with – the USA in the areas of research, development, manufacturing and launching of micro (100 kg), mini (300 kg) and medium (1,000 kg) size satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), as well as joint space missions, space communications and space exploration sounding rocket and scientific balloon flights. According to NASA Administrator, Charles Bolden, “Israel is known for its innovation. The October 15, 2015 joint agreement gives us the opportunity to cooperate with Israel on the journey to Mars, [highlighting Israel’s unique, extremely lightweight technologies, which conserve energy]….”
Israel is no longer a supplicant – as it used to be in its early years of independence - transformed from a net-national security and economic consumer to a net-national security and economic producer, generating substantial, military and commercial dividends to the US, which exceed the highly appreciated $3.1 BN annual investment, in Israel, by the US.
The annual US investment in Israel – erroneously defined as “foreign aid” (Foreign Military Financing) - has yielded one of the highest rates of return on US investments overseas. Israel is neither “foreign,” nor does it receive “aid.”
From a one-way-street relationship, the US-Israel connection has evolved into an exceptionally productive two-way-street, mutually-beneficial alliance. The US is the senior partner, and Israel the junior partner, in a win-win, geo-strategic partnership, which transcends the 68-year-old tension between all US presidents (from Truman through Obama) and Israeli prime ministers (from Ben Gurion through Netanyahu) over the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian issue.
According to the former Supreme Commander of NATO forces and Secretary of State, the late General Alexander Haig: “Israel constitutes the largest US aircraft carrier, which does not require a single US boot on board, cannot be sunk, deployed in a most critical region to the US economy and national security. And, if there were not Israel in the eastern flank of the Mediterranean, the US would have to deploy - to the region - a few more real aircraft carriers and tens of thousands of troops, which would have cost the US taxpayer some $15 BN annually. All of which is spared by the existence of Israel.”
Israel has been the most cost-effective, battle-tested laboratory of the US defense industries; the most reliable and practical beachhead/outpost of the US defense forces; sharing with the US unique intelligence, battle experience and battle tactics. Thus, Israel extends the US strategic hand, at a time when the US is experiencing draconian cuts in its defense budget, curtailing the size of its military force and the global deployment of troops, while facing tough international industrial-defense competition and dramatically intensified threats of Islamic terrorism overseas and on the US mainland.
For example, in 2016, Israel’s Air Force, which flies US-made aircraft shares with the US Air Force and the US manufacturers of the F-16, F-15 and additional US aircraft systems, real-time online, daily operational, maintenance and repair lessons, derived from Israel’s daily battle experience, which upgrades US national and homeland security, as well as enhances research and development, global competitiveness, exports and employment base of the US defense industries (e.g., Lockheed-Martin, McDonnell Douglas, Bell Helicopter, Boeing Defense, Northrop Grumman, etc.).
The plant manager of Fort Worth, Texas-based General Dynamics (Lockheed Martin), which manufactures the F-16, asserted that Israeli lessons have spared the manufacturer 10-20 years of research and development, leading to over 700 modifications in the current generation of the F-16, “valued at a mega-billion dollar bonanza to the manufacturer.” One may conclude that St. Louis, Missouri-based McDonnel Douglas, the manufacturer of the F-15 benefits in the same manner.
Similar lessons have been shared with the US Army, Navy and Marine Corps and the US manufacturers of tanks, armed personnel carriers, missile launchers, missiles, night navigation systems and hundreds of additional military and homeland security systems, manufactured by the US and utilized by Israel. For instance, the Chattanooga, Tennessee-based Northrup Grumman plant, which manufactures explosive-neutralizing robots has increased its exports since Israel’s decision to employ its product, benefitting from weekly telephone conference calls with Israeli experts, who have shared with Northrup Grumman their operational lessons. Israel is to the US defense industry what a triple-A tenant is to a shopping mall – enhancing value and drawing clients.
According to General George Keegan, a former US Air Force Intelligence Chief, the value of intelligence shared by Israel with the US – exposing the air force capabilities of adversaries, their new military systems, electronics and jamming devices – “could not be procured with five CIAs…. The ability of the US Air Force in particular, and the Army in general, to defend whatever position it has in NATO, owes more to the Israeli intelligence input than it does to any other single source of intelligence, be it satellite reconnaissance, be it technology intercept, or what have you.”
A similar assessment was made by the late Senator Daniel Inouye, who was the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee and the Appropriations Committee: “Israel provides the US with more intelligence than all NATO countries combined.” In July 2003, Brig. General Michael Vane, Deputy Chief of Staff at the US Army Training and Doctrine Command stated that Israel’s counter-terrorism experience shaped the US war on terrorism.
Moreover, US Special Operations units on their way to Iraq and Afghanistan are trained by Israeli experts in tackling suicide bombers, car bombs and the deadly Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). Upon arrival at the front, they are assisted by Israeli-developed (and co-developed with the US) unmanned aerial vehicles. Moreover, an Israeli armor plating technology, installed on U.S. military vehicles minimizes US fatalities, and the innovative “Israeli bandage” is employed to stop severe bleeding of injured US soldiers. US bomb squads leverage Israel’s unique counter-terrorism experience, improving their explosives neutralizing capabilities abroad and on the US mainland.
Israel has shared with the US its battle tactics and urban warfare experience, gained during wars against conventional Arab armies and Islamic/Palestinian terrorists. In 2014, General (ret.) Chuck Krulak, former Commandant of the US Marine Corps, stated: “The US battle tactics formulation, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas – the intellectual Mecca of the US Army - is based on the Israeli book.” In 1991, during the First Gulf War, General Krulak fought Russian tanks operated by Saddam Hussein, by applying the 1973 Israeli battle tactics against Soviet tanks employed by Egypt.
In November, 1952, following Israel's 1948-49 War of Independence, General Omar Bradley, the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, proposed to expand strategic cooperation with Israel, only to be rebuffed by the Department of State, which opposed the establishment of the Jewish State.
However, Israel has evolved into the most effective US strategic beachhead/outpost in the Middle East and beyond, as demonstrated during the 1967 Six-Day-War, when Israel obliterated the Egyptian military, aborting the pro-Soviet Egyptian attempt to topple the pro-US Arab oil-producing regimes, which would have devastated US economic and military interests at a time of high-dependency on Persian Gulf oil. In 1969, Israel shared with the US its own flare system, which diverted anti-aircraft heat-seeking missiles away from their targets, saving the lives of many gunship pilots during the Vietnam War.
In 1970, Israel’s power projection forced a rollback of the Soviet-backed Syrian invasion of pro-US Jordan, which aimed at toppling the Hashemite regime, and then surging into Saudi Arabia, which would have triggered an anti-US geo-strategic avalanche.
Following Israel’s October 1973 War against the Soviet-armed Egypt and Syria, some 50 US military experts, headed by General Donn Starry, spent six months studying Israel’s battle experience and tactics and the captured Soviet military systems, producing eight thick volumes, which tilted the global balance of power in favor of the US, upgraded the US defense of Europe during the Cold War, enhanced the US air and land battle doctrines during the 1991 Gulf War, and improved the global competitiveness of the US defense industries.
In 1989, 1969 and 1966, Israel snatched a Soviet Mig-23, a most advanced P-12 Soviet early warning radar and ELINT (electronic signals intelligence) system, and a Soviet Mig-21 from Syria, Egypt and Iraq, respectively. All were transferred to the US, evaluated and integrated into the US battle tactics, counter-measures and the defense industrial competitive edge, tilting the global balance of power in favor of the US.
On July 4, 1976, Israel's Entebbe hostage-rescue operation was a turning point in the battle against anti-US, pro-USSR Islamic terrorism. In 1981, in defiance of the US Administration, Israel devastated Iraq’s nuclear reactor, sparing the US a nuclear confrontation against Iraq in 1991, and snatching the pro-US Saudis from the jaws of pro-Soviet Iraq. In 1982, Israel destroyed twenty advanced Soviet surface-to-air missile (SAM) batteries, deployed in Lebanon/Syria and throughout the world, downing 89 Soviet Mig-21s, Mig-23s and Su-20s in the process. Israel proved that the most advanced mobile Soviet SAMs could be jammed, penetrated and destroyed, promptly sharing the battle tactics and electronic warfare innovations with the US Air Force and defense industrial base, providing the US with a significant geo-strategic and industrial game-changing edge over Moscow. In 2007, Israel destroyed a Syrian-North Korean-Iranian nuclear plant, dealing a blow to global terrorism, sparing humanity the trauma of a nuclear Assad in 2016.
In March, 2007, General John Craddock, the Supreme Commander of NATO, told the House Armed Services: “In the Middle East, Israel is the closest ally of the US, consistently supporting our interests through security cooperation.” Even CNN – which is generally critical of Israel - agreed that Israel’s war against Hamas terrorists advanced homeland security in pro-US Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States.
A June 2015 strategic agreement intensified cooperation between the air forces of both countries, establishing twelve teams of officers and codifying a widening range of joint annual agendas: operations, battle tactics, training, maintenance, repairs, airborne medicine, flight safety, etc., in the face of mutual threats, joint interests and constrained budgets. US combat pilots benefit uniquely during joint drills with their Israeli colleagues, who always fly in a “do-or-die” state of mind – a result of Israel’s narrow geographic waistline - which stretches the capabilities of the aircraft to new dimensions and generates more daring and innovative maneuvers, shared with their US colleagues. Recently, Israel’s Air Force developed a ground-breaking method of identifying, repairing and preempting cracks in old combat planes, such as the F-16, and promptly shared that information with the US Air Force and manufacturer. Instead of grounding planes for six months and preoccupying hundreds of mechanics, the Israeli-developed system requires two weeks and only a few mechanics, yielding significant economic and national security benefits.
In 2016, against the backdrop of mounting conventional and terrorist threats, the proliferation of Islamic terrorist cells in the US, the collapse of Europe’s military power projection, the Islamization of Turkey’s national security policy, the erosion of the Western posture of deterrence, and the growing instability, fragmentation, unpredictability and doubtful reliability of pro-US Arab regimes, Israel is the only stable, reliable, predictable, capable, democratic and unconditional ally of the US. Israel constitutes a critical obstacle to the megalomaniacal, Islamic imperialism, enhancing the national and homeland security of the US and its Arab allies. Unlike Europe, Israel is able and willing to flex its muscles.
An Israel-like ally in the Persian Gulf might have dramatically reduced the US military involvement in the Gulf and the Indian Ocean.
The raging, anti-US Arab Street, the melting UN-minded European Street, the commercially and militarily innovative pro-US Israeli Street, and the intensifying threats to global sanity and the US national and homeland security, all highlight Israel’s role as a special strategic partner of the USA – and not a member of the “foreign aid” club of supplicants - increasingly contributing to mutually-beneficial geo-strategic US-Israel joint ventures.