Jerusalem Post, Israel
Israel Remains America's Irreplaceable Ally

By Efraim Inbar*   

October 8, 2006
Israel - Original Article (English)    

America and Israel: One of
the world's most enduring
strategic partnerships.


The major challenges to American diplomacy in the post Cold War era - threats to the free flow of oil, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and Islamic terrorism - originate in the Middle East. With America's invasion of Afghanistan in 2002 and of Iraq in 2003, this region has become the focus of U.S. efforts to neutralize radical anti-American forces.

Washington thus welcomed Israel's military response to the provocations of the radical Islamist Hezbullah, an Iranian proxy and an enemy of the U.S. Yet, Israel's mixed military performance against Hezbullah in Lebanon has raised questions in Washington as to whether Israel still constitutes a strategic asset for the U.S.

For four decades, the United States has provided Israel with generous financial aid and with access to America's arsenal of the latest weaponry, in order to strengthen the IDF [Israeli Defense Force] and build it into a mighty military machine. Yet the IDF failed to achieve a clear defeat of Hezbullah, an accomplishment that would have enhanced Israel's deterrence and weakened the influence of Iran and other radical factions in the region. In light of America's difficulties in Iraq, Washington was more in need than ever of such a success against the radical Islamic forces.

But despite the troubling questions regarding Israel's strategic behavior in the summer of 2006, Washington still understands that Israel remains its most reliable ally in the Middle East and the eastern Mediterranean. There is no other state in the Middle East where in the near future, an American airplane can count with certainty on being welcomed. Even American allies such as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey may have second thoughts about hosting an American presence, and all of them have a record of denying the U.S. military use of their facilities. Moreover, the stability of these regimes cannot be taken for granted, as all of them grapple with modernization and are threatened to various degrees by Islamic radicals.

Israel is one of the few countries in the world that does not see U.S. primacy in international affairs as a troubling phenomenon. Unlike much of the rest of the world, Israel is not preoccupied with how to tame American power. In fact, Israeli foreign policy displays an unequivocal pro-American orientation.

Iran's President makes much of
his distaste for both Israel and
the United States.


In addition, Israel's strategic culture is much closer to that of the U.S. than to that of many of America's European allies. In contrast to Washington and Jerusalem, European ruling elites usually have a low threat perception and question the utility of the use of force in the international arena. Indeed, it is becoming more and more politically difficult for European capitals to dispatch troops to join the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq. European support for the seemingly inevitable American use of force against the nascent Iranian nuclear program is also uncertain. Unlike other American allies, Israel supports America's unilateralism, which is in fact in tune with its own defense doctrine that stresses self-reliance and is skeptical of the effectiveness of multilateral action.

Following 9/11, the U.S. approach to the use of military force has come to bear an even closer resemblance to that of Israel. In 2003, the U.S. adopted preemptive strikes as part of its official menu of policy options. Such strikes have been part of the Israeli modus operandi since the 1950s. Israel's preemptive posture, which was once a source of tension for bilateral ties, is now met with better understanding in the U.S. In Washington today, the many dilemmas of combating terrorists - particularly in an urban setting with a large civilian population - are no longer merely academic questions.

COOPERATION with Israel on security matters confers many advantages. The American military uses Israeli training facilities and has continuous access to Israeli intelligence, military experience and doctrine. Currently, U.S. officers serving in Iraq compare notes regularly with their Israeli counterparts on a variety of issues connected to low-intensity conflict. Israel has vast combat experience and an array of weaponry specifically tailored for such situations - both of which the U.S. capitalizes upon. Similarly, the growing American effort to defend its homeland from terrorist threats has intensified U.S. cooperation with Israel, a country that has coped with such threats for decades.

Israel is also an important source of military technology. While the U.S. dominates the international arms market, Israel enjoys a relative technological advantage in several niches, upon which U.S. firms have capitalized. Israeli-developed systems are employed by the American military and the U.S. Senate, recognizing this contribution, has just approved a $500 million appropriation for American-Israeli weapon R&D.

The America-Israel Public
Affairs Committie, one of
America's - and the world's
- most powerful lobbies.


The case for continued U.S. support of Israel as an important strategic ally, due to its strategic location and political stability as well as its technological and military assets, is very strong. The current strategic relationship is based on a common strategic agenda that has survived Cold War politics. However, this commonality of strategic interests must be continuously nurtured. Being a Western democracy in the Middle East with a strong and supportive Jewish lobby in the U.S. is not enough to secure critical America support. Rather, Israel must take care to ensure that it is playing a positive strategic role in an American-dominated world.

The writer is professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University and director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.



WindowsVideo AL-ARABIYA TV, Dubai: Excerpts from an interview with Muhammad Nazzal, member of the Hamas Political Bureau,' July 28, 00:01:16, MEMRI

"If Al-Qaeda or any Palestinian, Arab, or Islamic faction wants to come to Palestine to fight the Israelis, we welcome this."

Muhammad Nazzal, of the Hamas Political Bureau