During President Obama’s speech at a Washington D.C. synagogue last May, President Obama repeated his often-stated mantra: “my commitment to Israel’s security — is and always will be unshakable.” However, a recent interview reveals that President Obama in fact “questions” the cornerstone of America’s commitment to Israel’s security – namely, the requirement, enshrined in U.S. law, to assure Israel’s “qualitative military edge” (“QME”). Assuring Israel’s QME is vital to both U.S. national security and Israeli security.
Jeffrey Goldberg’s article, The Obama Doctrine (The Atlantic, April 2016 issue), based on Mr. Goldberg’s extensive interviews with President Obama and various current and prior Obama administration officials, stated,
“According to Leon Panetta, [President Obama] has questioned why the U.S. should maintain Israel’s so-called qualitative military edge, which grants it access to more sophisticated weapons systems than America’s Arab allies receive.”
President Obama’s reported “eagerness” to “question” maintaining Israel’s QME contradicts the statements of the President’s own State Department, as well as the President’s personal assurances of his “unshakable commitment” to Israel’s security. U.S. Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Andrew Shapiro, stated in a speech in November 2011 entitled “Ensuring Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge” (posted on the U.S. State Department website), that: “The cornerstone of America’s security commitment to Israel has been an assurance that the United States would help Israel uphold its qualitative military edge. This is Israel’s ability to counter and defeat credible military threats from any individual state, coalition of states, or non-state actor, while sustaining minimal damages or casualties.”
U.S. Assistant Secretary Shapiro further noted that assuring Israel’s QME is even more vital in these “turbulent times.” The times are even more turbulent now, with the rise and expansion of ISIS’s reach, utter chaos in Syria, and Iran using its windfall from the Iran deal to provide advanced guidance systems and arms to terrorist groups throughout the Middle East.
Moreover, assuring Israel’s QME is essential to U.S. security. As U.S. Assistant Secretary explained in his 2011 speech:
“A strong partnership supports U.S. national security . . . America’s commitment to Israel’s security and prosperity has extended over many decades because our leaders on both sides of the aisle have long understood that a robust United States-Israel security relationship is in our interests. Our support for Israel’s security helps preserve peace and stability in the region. If Israel were weaker, its enemies would be bolder. This would make broader conflict more likely, which would be catastrophic to American interests in the region. It is the very strength of Israel’s military which deters potential aggressors and helps foster peace and stability. Ensuring Israel’s military strength and its superiority in the region, is therefore critical to regional stability and as a result is fundamentally a core interest of the United States.”
“The United States and Israel also see eye to eye on host of strategic questions. Indeed, a new Washington Institute report by Robert Blackwill and Walter Slocombe articulates the strategic benefits of the relationship for the United States. The authors argue that “the commonality of interest has long been the dominant theme of the U.S. – Israel bilateral relationship.” Israel is a vital ally and serves as a cornerstone of our regional security commitments. From confronting Iranian aggression, to working together to combat transnational terrorist networks, to stopping nuclear proliferation and supporting democratic change and economic development in the region – it is clear that both our strategic outlook, as well as our national interests are strongly in sync.”
“The United States also experiences a number of tangible benefits from our close partnership with Israel. For instance, joint exercises allow us to learn from Israel’s experience in urban warfare and counter-terrorism. Israeli technology is proving critical to improving our Homeland Security and protecting our troops. One only has to look at Afghanistan and Iraq, where Israeli armor plating technology is being used on U.S. military vehicles and innovative equipment, such as the specially designed “Israeli bandage,” is being used to treat our troops. The links between our two governments and U.S. and Israeli defense companies have yielded important groundbreaking innovations that ultimately make us all safer. This involves sensors, unmanned aerial vehicle technology, surveillance equipment, and detection devices to seek out IED’s that support our forces. Additionally, if we are considering the economic impact, it is important to note that our security assistance to Israel also helps support American jobs, since the vast majority of security assistance to Israel is spent on American-made goods and services.”
U.S. Assistant Secretary Shapiro concluded: “In sum, while our commitment to Israel’s security is rooted in our shared values and outlook, we don’t provide assistance out of charity. We provide assistance because it benefits our [U.S.] security.”
Assuring Israel’s QME is also essential because “Israel must rely on better equipment and training to compensate for being much smaller geographically and in terms of population than its potential adversaries.” (Congressional Research Service report, June 10, 2015).