Over the last several months of 2019, the idea of a US-Israel mutual defense deal has been circulating in mainstream media.
Some, such as US Senator Lindsey Graham and CEO of Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA) Michael Makovsky, in addition to US President Donald Trump appear to be in favor of it.
I had a call today with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss the possibility of moving forward with a Mutual Defense Treaty, between the United States and Israel, that would further anchor the tremendous alliance….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 14, 2019
— Noa Landau נעה לנדאו (@noa_landau) December 4, 2019
Opposition leader and former Israel Defense Forces chief Benny Gantz announced that he opposed any such treaty and that it would “limit Israel’s actions and the IDF’s ability to protect the country from the threats it faces.” He added that a treaty was inherently “opposed to the position expressed by [Israel’s] security establishment for decades.”
Israeli Media appear to be predominantly keen on the idea, such as Haaretz’ Chuck Freilich, who said that his “belief is that a defense treaty with the U.S. is of vital strategic importance for Israel, and it should be concluded as soon as possible.”
Fifty nations, including 28 NATO members, have defense treaties with the United States; the last such treaty, with Japan, was signed in 1961.
Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, sought a defense treaty with the U.S. as early as the 1950s. Bill Clinton was the only president to date apparently willing to conclude a defense treaty, albeit with considerable reluctance, as the price of peace.
The Jerusalem Post, on December 17th published an opinion piece written by above-mentioned supporter Michael Makovsky.
“The United States and Israel should agree a mutual defense pact. While Israel has always been exceptionally capable and insistent in defending itself, Iran’s growing regional aggression and revived nuclear program create the potential for higher-level conflict threatening Israel’s strategic viability and even its existence.”
The opinion piece argues that Israel is doing a sufficient job in protecting itself, and that it’s own military might deter any potential aggression.
“By treating a major attack on one as an attack on both, an alliance would provide greater deterrence than either ally alone. This could prevent Iran or others from initiating or escalating to large-scale action against Israel or US vital interests in the Middle East – and others from joining in – or curb the scope of enemy action.”
In addition, according to Makovsky, Israel was doing the majority of the heavy lifting, countering alleged Iranian expansion in Syria, Iraq and other locations.
However, Israel requires assistance, since it is in an arms race with Tehran, the other regional Arab states and Turkey, as well.
The Obama administration signed a memorandum of understanding with Israel, which locks the US weapons procurement to the country at a certain capacity per year, until 2027.
This MoU could be circumvented, with the Congress voting to deliver weapons to Israel in advance or through other means.
“There are several financing options. Israel could borrow commercially against the MoU and pay interest however it chooses. As it has done before, Washington could enable Israel to borrow at a lower rate by guaranteeing this loan.”
Israel also needs precision munitions immediately, but US production capacity faces constraints.
Finally, according to Makovsky, the US should replenish its prepositioned stockpiles in Israel with these munitions, and consider loaning Israel these and other weapons to compensate for US production shortfalls.
The opinion piece, and all of the supporters of the US-Israeli mutual defense deal willingly omit several factors.
Israel isn’t really under threat from any actual “foreign aggressors.” Any escalation in Gaza is a result of the long Arab-Israeli conflict in the region, and Tel Aviv’s unwillingness to undertake any action whatsoever to de-escalate the situation and regularly uses force against Gaza’s civilians and carries out frequent attacks and assassination against leaders of the Palestinian organizations, under the guise of dubious justifications.
The situation in Syria, too, was destabilized to a very large extent due to the efforts of Israel’s allies and its own activities, such as supporting terrorism in southern Syria. Thus, the main complaint of Tel Aviv is the occasional shelling in the occupied parts of the Golan Heights were during the fighting against terrorists. The terrorists were defeated, and now a new threat was predominantly fabricated – the “big bad Iranians.” It uses Iran as a justification to carry out regular attacks on Syria.
Any US-Israel mutual defense deal would more than likely lead to further escalation in the region and little more. Since, any such agreement would provide Tel Aviv with the confidence that the US would be legally bound to support its aggressive policy in the region.
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