Obama’s Chance to Reinvent the U.S.-Israel Defense Relationship

November 10, 2015

Defense One:

Israel relationship is in crisis and the best hope is for both countries to wait it out until there is a new president.

That is a mistake. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with President Barack Obama on Monday offers an opportunity to change course. But that effort need not start from scratch. The answer lies in reinventing the most solid foundation that exists between both countries—the U.S.-Israeli defense and intelligence partnership—through three new areas of cooperation.

America and Israel share more enemies and threats than they have differences in policy. A professional military and defense dialogue is a key to finding creative solutions to our most vexing problems. This does not mean ignoring or endorsing the Netanyahu government’s policies we disagree with – from the Arab-Israeli peace process to diplomacy with Iran. That would be profoundly wrong. But we should not miss the opportunity for what a parallel security effort can accomplish.

The depth of our defense relationship gets too little attention. As President Obama’s deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy, I traveled to Israel over two dozen times in three years to meet with Israel’s top defense officials about the deepest threats to our nations and how to preserve Israel’s “qualitative military edge”. Last year, the United States provided more military assistance to Israel than at any other time in history. Last week, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter reinforced his priority that America’s military must develop an insurance policy should Iran back away from the nuclear agreement. It was no accident that new Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford’s first visit abroad was to Israel.

That is for good reason. The defense relationship makes America safer. Israel has the military and intelligence capabilities of no other nation in the Middle East. It provides theU.S. critical intelligence, joint military exercises, and technology. But that defense relationship will stagnate unless we reinvent it beyond dollars for the Israeli defense budget. The U.S. and Israel should negotiate a new Security Memorandum of Understanding, which would provide a formal guarantee of U.S. security assistance to Israel for the next decade or more…

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