Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Perceived Dependence Syndrome

David Isaac

Israel Bombs Osirak

“There exists … among many Americans, a conviction of Israeli dependence. What is worse, many Israelis have a sense of dependence; worst of all, it is a sense that exists also among Israeli leaders.” (Shmuel Katz, “Surrender to Washington”, The Jerusalem Post, May 20, 1983). One such Israeli leader who suffers from this in spades is its current president, Shimon Peres. Speaking before a conference in Jerusalem last week, Peres said that Israel depends on the U.S. “for our existence” and that “we cannot give back to the United States what the U.S. is giving us, but in our own small way we can be of help.” That “small way,” according to Peres, is “if we stop the secondary conflict between us and the Palestinians.” Then, said Peres, the U.S. would be free to focus on Iran.

It’s not surprising that Peres should disseminate this craven view of Israeli dependency and the nonsense that turning Judea and Samaria over to Fatah is the key to ending the Iranian threat. It’s what one would expect from the chief architect of the calamitous Oslo Accords and a man who has made so many ridiculous statements over the years that he actually inspired a “best-of” collection of the most fantastically stupid ones (“Shimon Says”).

Unfortunately, Peres isn’t alone in his belief that Israel can’t make it without America. It’s a feeling shared by many, both in the U.S. and Israel. Treated as an article of faith, the notion that Israel is propped up by American largesse is one of those “truths” about Israel that is universally acknowledged, but little examined.

This writer recalls stopping at a Delek station for a fill-up some years ago when the attendant, grinning from ear-to-ear and with a thumb’s up, informed him that “Without America, Israel is finished.”

Shmuel regarded the belief in Israel’s dependence, specifically among its own leaders, as a chief reason for Israel’s string of diplomatic defeats. In “Purse-String Tangles” (The Jerusalem Post, Nov. 12, 1982), Shmuel wrote:

The sense of “dependence” on the United States has time and again sapped the will of Israeli leaders and dictated to them a retreat from positions long and sincerely held, an abandonment of tested national, and rational, axioms basic to Israel’s security. Why did the Golda Meir government on October 22, 1973, accept a cease-fire which prevented the achievement, after so much suffering and loss, of total victory over the Egyptian and Syrian aggressors? Only two days earlier, Foreign Minister Abba Eban had unequivocally rejected the idea of a cease-fire – only victory would serve.

Why, subsequently, did the government – in an act unprecedented in history – free the enemy Third Army from encirclement? And later – not only give up the area captured inside Egypt but withdraw from the Suez Canal zone, turning hard-won victory into ominous defeat?

That was not the end of the process. Was it all because Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan, and afterwards Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, were convinced by logic, by superior wisdom in Henry Kissinger, or by an assumption of his greater understanding of the situation in the Middle East?

Nothing of the kind. They were so afraid of American “anger” (in a thoroughly unjust cause) that they surrendered interests that they had but yesterday described as vital – and undermined their own credibility.

In “Surrender to Washington”, Shmuel emphasized the mutuality of interests – and benefits – of the relationship.

It is not true that Israel is “dependent” on the U.S. There exists, in fact, a state of mutuality – but Israel’s benefits are immediate and visible, while its contributions are long-term and less tangible.

In a 1988 Global Affairs article, “Interdependence in U.S.-Israeli Relations” he wrote:

A friendly Israel is essential to America’s global security not only because of geopolitical facts, but because Israel has developed a capability of actively serving American interests, particularly in the Middle East. A threat by any enemy of the United States to the eastern Mediterranean and its shores would be met, certainly in the first phase of a conflict, by Israeli forces. It is the one area of vital American interest where no U.S. forces are stationed.

Twenty-two years later, that is still essentially true. The “first permanent U.S. military presence on Israeli soil” was established only this September. It’s an X-band radar installation needed for coordinating defense against an Iranian attack. Total personnel: 120. Hardly, the “more than 100 thousand military and civilian personnel operations” the U.S. European Command boasts that it conducts across Europe.

Israel, a feisty little country, prides itself on fighting its own battles. If Israel is to be considered dependent why then aren’t the European nations? These mostly wealthy countries have shifted their defense budgets onto the shoulders of U.S. taxpayers. Yet, not Germany, England, nor Italy, which have 1,000s of US troops stationed within their borders, suffer from a perceived dependence syndrome.

In the Global Affairs article, Shmuel writes:

[B]etween the United States and Israel there subsists a condition of interdependence manifest no less – and in some senses more – than in the relationship between the United States and Western Europe.…

A substantial body of information published in recent years, in professional and political journals, through investigative reporting and in congressional hearings in both houses, bears testimony to the weight and the variety of the Israeli contribution to Western security.

It is a universal commonplace that Israel’s intelligence services are beyond compare, and they have functioned time and again to the benefit of the United States and its allies. Indeed, no element in Israeli intelligence that could be of service to the United States has been withheld from the intelligence services of the United States or its Western allies.

What is less well known is the scope and volume of Israel’s ongoing research and development, technical and technological, and its application of battle experience, the consequences of which are reflected in improvements to American weapons, [and] the production of new weapons…

Evidence of Israel’s contribution to American security is readily evident from a simple Google search. According to a USA Today news item in the lead-up to the Second Gulf War, “After decades of U.S. military aid and defense cooperation, the U.S. military is permeated by technology developed in Israel — from the Army’s Hunter drones to the targeting systems on the U.S. Marines’ Harrier jets to the fuel tanks on its F-15 fighters.”

Even the openly hostile Obama administration recognizes that U.S.-Israeli relations are a two-way street. In July, Andrew J. Shapiro, Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs, speaking at the Brookings Saban Center for Middle East Policy, admitted:

“Israeli-origin equipment deployed on Iraqi and Afghan battlefields are protecting American troops every day. This includes armor plating technology for U.S. military vehicles and unique medical solutions such as the “Israeli bandage”.… It also includes sensors, surveillance equipment, unmanned aerial vehicle technology, and detection devices to seek out IED’s. Many such partnerships and investments between our two governments and U.S. and Israeli defense firms have yielded important groundbreaking innovations that ultimately make us all safer.”

A smaller admission was made by Joseph Sisco, a former assistant secretary of state, to Shmuel Katz during a symposium of the International Security Council in 1989. He said to Shmuel, “I want to assure you, Mr. Katz, that if we were not getting full value for our money, you would not get a cent from us.”

Remarking on Sisco’s comments, Shmuel wrote:

This statement, coming from an American policy-shaper, makes political sense. It also makes sense to say that it is probably a considerable understatement. It is not easy to put price labels on Israel’s contributions to American security, but whatever research has been done has confirmed that Israel has given more than “full value” for every cent received from the US. (“The Big Lie On US Aid”, The Jerusalem Post, March 20, 1992)

It is indeed difficult to put a price on the security benefits America has derived from Israel. It was Israel, for example, which in 1970 stepped in at America’s request to save Jordan from falling into the hands of the PLO. With the Vietnam War on, the U.S. didn’t have sufficient forces to help the beleaguered King Hussein. Then-Secretary of State William Rogers admitted the U.S. needed Israel “to bail us out”.

In 1981, Israel bombed the Osirak nuclear plant in Iraq. At the time, it was roundly condemned by the world, including the U.S. Only 10 years later, after the First Gulf War, did the U.S. acknowledge its debt of gratitude. In 1991, then-Defense Secretary Richard Cheney presented the commander of the Israeli Air Force a satellite photograph of the demolished reactor. On it Cheney wrote, “For General David Ivri, with thanks and appreciation for the outstanding job he did on the Iraqi Nuclear Program in 1981, which made our job much easier in Desert Storm.”

It’s an open question whether the First Gulf War would have even been possible without the destruction of the Osirak reactor. Would America have dared confront militarily a nuclear Iraq?

With Iran rapidly approaching nuclear capability and its proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas, poised to wreak terror in the region and on the West, a strong ally on America’s side, one which has proven its reliability time and again, will continue to make valuable contributions to US security.

If Israel is to make those contributions, it must remain a formidable ally. It is profoundly against US interests to weaken Israel to the point where it is impossible for it to defend itself. At the same time, it behooves Israel to recognize the benefits it offers the United States, and from that recognition gain the dignity and the strength of will to resist US bullying to adopt policies that undercut its strength.

An alliance based on interdependence, mutuality, and shared strategic interests — this is the foundation upon which the U.S.-Israel relationship is based. It’s a fact both countries seem easily to forget. But maintaining a clear-eyed understanding of their relationship is important for each in order to form a stronger bond and work more closely to repel their common enemies.

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