By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
In 2017, the national security interests of the US and Israel have converged, in an unprecedented manner, in response to the anti-US Arab Tsunami; anti-US Islamic terrorism; the declining European posture of deterrence; drastic cuts in the US defense budget; an increasingly unpredictable, dangerous globe; Israel’s surge of military and commercial capabilities and US-Israel shared values.
Contrary to conventional wisdom – and traditional State Department policy - US-Israel and US-Arab relations are not a case of zero-sum-game. This is currently demonstrated by enhanced US-Israel strategic cooperation, concurrently with expanded security cooperation between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other pro-US Arab countries, as well as stronger cooperation between the US and those same Arab countries. Unlike the simplistic view of the Middle East, Arab policy-makers are well aware of their priorities, especially when the radical Islamic machete is at their throats. They are consumed by internal and external intra-Muslim, intra-Arab violence, which have bled and dominated the Arab agenda, prior to - and irrespective of - the Palestinian issue, which has never been a core cause of regional turbulence, a crown-jewel of Arab policy-making, nor the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Israel’s posture as a unique ally of the US - in the Middle East and beyond – has surged since the 1991 demise of the USSR, which transformed the bi-polar globe, into a multi-polar arena of conflicts, replete with highly unpredictable, less controllable and more dangerous tactical threats. Israel possesses proven tactical capabilities in face of such threats.
Thus, Israel provides tailwind to the US in the pursuit of three critical challenges, which impact the national and homeland security of the US, significantly transcending the scope of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian issue:
1. To constrain/neutralize the Ayatollahs of Iran, who relentlessly aspire to achieve mega-capability (nuclear), in order to remove the mega-obstacle (the US) from the Persian Gulf, and achieve the mega-goal (domination of the Muslim World and subordination of the “modern day American Crusaders”).
2. To defeat global Islamic terrorism, which aims to topple all pro-US Arab regimes, expand the abode of the “believers” and crash the abode of the “infidel” in the Middle East and beyond.
3. To bolster the stability of the pro-US Arab regimes, which are lethally threatened by the Ayatollahs and other sources of Islamic terrorism.
Moreover, Israel has been the only effective regional power to check the North Korean incursion into the Middle East. For instance, on September 6, 2007, the Israeli Air Force destroyed Syria’s nuclear site, built mostly with the support of Iran and North Korea, sparing the USA and the globe the wrath of a ruthless, nuclear Assad regime.
While Israel is generally portrayed as a supplicant expecting the US to extend a helping hand, Admiral (ret.) Stavridis, a former NATO Supreme Commander, currently the Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, says otherwise. He maintains that Israel is not a supplicant, but rather a unique geo-strategic partner, extending the strategic hand of the US through a mutually-beneficial, highly-productive, two-way-street, win-win relationship with the US. On January 5, 2017 Admiral Stavridis wrote: “Our best military partner in the region, by far, is Israel…as we stand together facing the challenges of the Middle East…. Israeli intelligence-gathering is superb…. Second zone of potentially enhanced cooperation is in technology and innovation…. In addition to missile defense, doing more together in advanced avionics (as we did with the F-15), miniaturization (like Israel’s small airborne-warning aircraft) and the production of low-cost battlefield unmanned vehicles (both air and surface) would yield strong results….We should up our game in terms of intelligence cooperation. The Israeli intelligence services…have been ahead on a wide range of trends, including the disintegration of Syria, the events in Egypt and the military and nuclear capability of Iran…. Setting up a joint special-forces training and innovation center for special operations, in Israel, would be powerful…. It truly is a case of two nations that are unarguably stronger together….”
Unlike other major US allies in Europe, the Far East, Africa and the Middle East, Israel does not require US military personnel and bases in order to produce an exceptionally high added-value to the annual US investment in – and not “foreign aid” to - Israel’s military posture.
For example, the plant manager of Lockheed-Martin, the manufacturer of the F-16 and F-35, told me during a visit to the plant in Ft. Worth, Texas: “The value of the flow of lessons derived from Israel’s operation, maintenance and repairs of the F-16 has yielded hundreds of upgrades, producing a mega-billion-dollar bonanza for Lockheed-Martin, improving research and development, increasing exports and expanding employment.” A similar added-value has benefitted McDonnell-Douglas, the manufacturer of the F-15 in Berkeley, Missouri, as well as hundreds of US defense manufacturers, whose products are operated by Israel. The Jewish State - the most predictable, stable, effective, reliable and unconditional ally of the USA - has become the most cost-effective, battle-tested laboratory of the US defense industry.
According to a former US Air Force Intelligence Chief, General George Keegan: “I could not have procured the intelligence [provided by Israel on Soviet Air Force capabilities, new Soviet weapons, electronics and jamming devices] with five CIAs…. The ability of the US Air Force in particular, and the Army in general, to defend NATO owes more to the Israeli intelligence input than it does to any other single source of intelligence….”
The former Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Daniel Inouye, revealed that “Israel provided the US [operational lessons and intelligence on advanced Soviet ground-to-air missiles] that would have cost the US billions of dollars to find out (Congressional Record, October 2, 1990, Vol. 136, No. 145).”
On October 28. 1991, in the aftermath of the First Gulf War, then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney stated: “There were many times during the course of the build-up in the Gulf, and subsequent conflict, that I gave thanks for the bold and dramatic action that had been taken some ten years before [when Israel destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactor, Osirak].” The destruction of Iraq’s nuclear capabilities in 1981 spared the US a nuclear confrontation in 1991.
An Israel-like ally in the Persian Gulf would have dramatically minimized US military involvement in Persian Gulf conflicts, and drastically reduced the monthly, mega-billion dollar cost of US miliatary units and bases in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean, as is the current Israel-effect in the eastern flank of the Mediterranean.