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SECURING AMERICA, STRENGTHENING ISRAEL

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Shared Security, Greater Stability - the U.S., Israel, and the QME

JINSA Report #: 

1,125
November 18, 2011

While the Obama administration has pursued Middle East policies that could be characterized as being sometimes indifferent to Israel's precarious security situation, relations between our Department of Defense and the Israel Defense Forces are as good today, if not better, than they have ever been. Both countries reap the benefits that flow from their strategic cooperation and the provision of advanced U.S. defense systems. Above all, they significantly contribute to Israeli deterrence which leads directly to greater regional stability.

Such stability allows Israel to prosper despite its neighbors' hostility. That Israel is the only true, pluralistic democracy in the critical arc from Egypt eastward through the Gulf States and north through Syria and Iran is a fact that should not be lost on those who favor dealing with "dictators who can deliver."

Earlier this month, Andrew J. Shapiro, the State Department's Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs, spoke in Washington about Israel's Qualitative Military Edge (QME) and the initiatives to strengthen it. The QME, a fundamental goal of U.S. foreign policy, aims to ensure Israel's ability to overcome credible military threats from any individual state, coalition of states, or non-state actor, while sustaining minimal damage and casualties.

Mr. Shapiro maintained that, "[The United States doesn't] just support Israel because of a long standing bond, we support Israel because it is in our national interests to do so. [O]ur leaders on both sides of the aisle have long understood that a robust United States-Israel security relationship is in our interests."

He proceeded to list the benefits that accrue to the United States due to its support of Israel.

  • An economic boost. "[I]t is important to note that our security assistance to Israel also helps support American jobs, since the vast majority of security assistance to Israel is spent on American-made goods and services."

  • Regional stability. "It is the very strength of Israel's military which deters potential aggressors and helps foster peace and stability. Ensuring Israel's military strength and its superiority in the region, is therefore critical to regional stability and as a result is fundamentally a core interest of the United States."

  • A boost to strategic security initiatives. "Israel is a vital ally and serves as a cornerstone of [America's] regional security commitments. From confronting Iranian aggression, to working together to combat transnational terrorist networks, to stopping nuclear proliferation and supporting democratic change and economic development in the region - it is clear that both our strategic outlook, as well as our national interests are strongly in sync."

  • Increased capabilities of U.S. armed forces. "[J]oint exercises allow us to learn from Israel's experience in urban warfare and counterterrorism. Israeli technology is proving critical to improving our Homeland Security and protecting our troops. One only has to look at Afghanistan and Iraq, where Israeli armor plating technology is being used on U.S. military vehicles and innovative equipment, such as the specially designed 'Israeli bandage,' is being used to treat our troops."

  • Israeli defense technology benefits U.S. armed forces directly. "The links between our two governments and U.S. and Israeli defense companies have yielded important groundbreaking innovations that ultimately make us all safer. This involves sensors, unmanned aerial vehicle technology, surveillance equipment, and detection devices to seek out IEDs."

  • Joint military exercises and training improves the capabilities of U.S. armed forces. In 2012, "the U.S. will combine the U.S. European Command's premiere annual exercise, Austere Challenge, with the annual iteration of the Juniper Cobra [missile defense] exercise. This will involve more than 5,000 U.S and Israeli forces simulating the ballistic missile defense of Israel, making it by far the largest and the most significant exercise in U.S.-Israeli history. U.S. and Israeli forces also take part in numerous exercises throughout the year in order to test operational concepts, improve interoperability, and practice urban terrain and counter-terrorism operations. This intensive collaboration enhances Israel's military capabilities and develops a greater understanding and closer relationship between our military and the Israeli Defense Forces."

  • Missile defense. America has long derived benefits for our own missile defense programs from cooperative joint projects such as the Arrow program. In addition, U.S. support ..."enables Israel to expand and accelerate Iron Dome production and deployment and improve its multi-tiered defense against short-range rockets."

  • "[The United States] support[s] Israel's defense needs by ensuring Israel is equipped with highly advanced systems." The most recent example of which, as Mr. Shapiro noted, is the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Though it was not explicitly mentioned, sales to foreign allies reduce the unit cost to the U.S. taxpayer. The U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy, and the U.S. Marine Corps plan to purchase some 2,400 F-35s over the next two decades.

There is no shortage of challenges facing the United States and Israel in the months and years ahead. American administrations have sometimes pushed Israel to accept security risks beyond those which its own people and leadership have deemed prudent. And a weakened, less secure Israel is not in America's best interests. As Assistant Secretary Shapiro said, "[O]ur commitment to Israel's security is rooted in our shared values and outlook, we don't provide assistance out of charity. We provide assistance because it benefits our security."

With the looming Iranian nuclear threat and an increasingly unstable Arab world, we must hold our government to its commitments to ensure Israel's security. And we must remain on guard against attempts to pressure Israel to take unreasonable risks for peace. This would put not only Israel's security in jeopardy, but also our own.

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