NEAR EAST REPORT AIPAC'S BIWEEKLY ON AMERICAN MIDDLE EAST POLICY
U.S. military leaders routinely visit the Jewish state in order to interact with their Israeli counterparts.
American and Israeli pilots train together in order to prepare for common threats. Many U.S. warplanes are equipped with Israeli electronics that improve precision targeting.
American soldiers are always welcome to visit Israel, where they will be treated as friends by the public. The same cannot be said of any other Middle Eastern country.
Special Report – Israel: A U.S. Strategic Asset
For decades, the United States and Israel have shared a deep strategic relationship aimed at confronting the common threats to both nations. In the coming months, Near East Report will examine in detail the many ways that Israel is a strategic asset for the United States. The following is a general overview of some of the many themes that will be covered.
A Reliable Ally
The United States and Israel face a variety of threats in the Middle East, from radical Islam and nuclear proliferation to cyber warfare and counterfeiting. Israel is a reliable fellow democracy that shares America’s values and worldview in a region dominated by authoritarian regimes.
With no other country in the region, and few in the entire world does the United States share the same high level of strategic cooperation that it does with Israel.
The historic alliance between the United States and Israel is a stabilizing force in an otherwise unstable region of the world. Indeed, U.S.-Israel military cooperation is a powerful deterrent to those in the Middle East who seek to harm either country.
Israel’s presence in the region provides a de facto guarantee of security—well beyond its borders—that would be costly to replace. Despite Israel’s small size, its military strength and geostrategic location in the eastern Mediterranean provide a strong deterrent against Iran and other radical forces that threaten U.S. interests.
Both Democratic and Republican leaders have long recognized Israel’s role as a strategic partner that provides defense technology and shares its battlefield experience with the United States.
“The United States will maintain its unshakable commitment to the security and welfare of the state of Israel, recognizing that a strong Israel is essential to our basic goals in that area,” said President Ronald Reagan, who would formalize the strategic relationship between Israel and the United States during his presidency.
Today, President Obama has voiced a similar view on the importance of the relationship. “Many of the same forces that threaten Israel also threaten the United States and our efforts to secure peace and stability in the Middle East. Our alliance with Israel serves our national security interests.” BACK TO TOP
Protecting American Soldiers
The close strategic relationship between the United States and Israel began with the allies sharing key intelligence and “lessons learned” after the 1967 Six-Day War. In the 1980s, Congress formally designated Israel as a major non-NATO ally of the United States.
Below are some results of this strong strategic partnership:
- The United States is currently putting Israeli military innovations to use in the Middle East and elsewhere to save American lives on the battlefield. Examples range from basic items such as a unique emergency bandage to high-tech solutions like reactive armor tiles, mine-resistant vehicles and equipment to counter improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
- Israeli technology has improved the safety, reliability and effectiveness of U.S. weapons and platforms, including advanced unmanned drones, precision weaponry and advanced intelligence and surveillance systems.
- The partnerships with U.S. defense firms and investments in the American defense industry sector by such Israeli companies as Israel Aerospace Industries, Rafael, Elbit, Israel Military Industries and Plasan Sasa have yielded important benefits to U.S. military forces in the field.
- Israel has provided U.S. forces with emergency equipment, including armor for troop carriers and munitions for American forces in Iraq. After 9/11, Israel delayed taking a delivery of armored Humvees being produced for the IDF in the United States so that the U.S. military could quickly ship the completed vehicles for use by U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
The two allies routinely engage in combined military exercises involving American and Israeli land, sea and air forces. A centerpiece of the interaction between the two militaries is combined missile defense training, including the bi-annual Juniper Cobra exercise. During this drill, the two sides practice cooperative tactics to counter the growing threat of attack by ballistic missiles and long-range rockets.
“We’re extremely proud of that exercise,” said Admiral James Stavridis, commander of the U.S. European Command. “We had over 2,000 U.S. and allied forces involved in that. It was a very complex missile defense exercise that married up the Israeli systems, the Arrow and Iron Dome system, with our own Aegis sea-based system, as well as some of our land-based systems…. I would say that we need to build on that exercise and continue to have that level of dialogue and engagement and actual operational activities with our Israeli friends. And, I believe that we can learn from them and we can learn from their technical systems, just as they can marry up and learn from ours.”
Twice annually, U.S. Marines conduct desert warfare training with their IDF counterparts, and American soldiers and security officials have received Israeli instruction on urban combat techniques. U.S. pilots have held mock dogfights with the Israeli Air Force, have tested aerial combat tactics and have practiced aerial refueling. Additionally, the United States pre-positions military equipment in Israel for use by either country in a time of crisis.
Today, Israel’s intelligence assets are increasingly valuable to the United States. Israel helps Washington obtain real-time assessments of Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, monitor Syrian activity in Lebanon and Iraq and determine the level of coordination among Hamas, Hizballah and other terrorist groups.
“I can…say from long experience that our security relationship with Israel is important for America,” U.S. National Security Advisor Gen. James Jones said. “Our military benefits from Israeli innovations in technology, from shared intelligence, from exercises that help our readiness and joint training that enhances our capabilities and from lessons learned in Israel’s own battles against terrorism and asymmetric threats.” BACK TO TOP
Jointly developed by the United States and Israel, the Arrow is the world’s most sophisticated deployed national missile shield. Furthermore, it is the only operational system that has consistently proven that one missile can shoot down another at high altitudes and supersonic speeds.
Israel and the United States are also collaborating on the development of a quick-reaction defense system, called David’s Sling, to address the threats faced by Israeli and American troops from short- and medium-range missiles and rockets. The United States is planning to use the David’s Sling interceptor as part of its efforts to protect American troops and other Mideast allies, as well as nations in other regions facing similar threats.
The reality of life in Israel during the past 62 years has forced Israelis to defend against constant terrorist threats, driving the Jewish state to become a leading force in homeland security and counterterrorism. Since 9/11, especially, the United States and Israel have intensified their homeland security cooperation.
Israel has developed expertise across many key homeland security areas, including critical infrastructure protection, border security, explosives detection, bioterrorism preparedness, biometrics, water and food security, plus emergency preparedness and response.
On February 8, 2007, the United States and Israel formalized homeland security cooperation between the two nations. The two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that opened a host of possibilities to further expand cooperation in the homeland security arena. Then-Israeli Public Security Minister Avi Dicter said that the United States “should use Israel as a laboratory” for the development of its own homeland security needs.
American law enforcement officers and first responders are increasingly studying Israel’s battle against terrorism to glean lessons for U.S. efforts to protect its citizens. Israel frequently hosts delegations of American police chiefs, sheriffs and emergency responders. On their return home, these officials and specialists infuse their departments’ training with lessons on how Israeli security forces prevent such terrorist attacks as suicide bombings.
The IDF Home Front Command and the U.S. National Guard have even exchanged liaisons to help facilitate their cooperation, with an Israeli officer stationed in Washington and a U.S. officer stationed in Israel. In May 2010, National Guard Chief Gen. Craig McKinley traveled to Israel to observe an IDF Home Front Command exercise, Turning Point 4, which simulated a major bioterrorism attack.
Strong and Independent
Israel appreciates America’s pledge that it would help defend Israel in the case of a major assault. However, Israelis are proud of the fact that when threatened or attacked, they fight their own battles. Israel has never asked American troops to risk their lives to defend the Jewish state. At the same time, unlike many areas of the Middle East, U.S. troops are always welcome to visit Israel, where they are free to tour the Holy Land and practice their faith as they see fit.
America’s investment in Israel has been returned in the form of a reliable, cooperative pro-American ally. Israel helps the U.S. respond to serious threats, saves American lives at home and abroad, trains and supplies U.S. soldiers, helps defend American interests, provides invaluable intelligence about its enemies and supports its values and overall foreign policy objectives. Israel is and will remain an invaluable strategic asset to the United States. BACK TO TOP