At the outset, the Obama administration made it clear that the United Nations would be its preferred venue for diplomacy. In contrast to the Bush administration, the U.S. rejoined the U.N. Human Rights Commission and the U.N. Alliance of Civilizations, an openly anti-Israel body which claimed in 2006 that global tensions were driven primarily by the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and referred to the September 11th attacks as resulting from “a perception among Muslim societies of unjust aggression stemming from the West.”
It was in the Alliance of Civilizations that Turkey’s Prime Minister last week lumped Zionism with “Islamophobia” and anti-Semitism as racist doctrines and “war crimes.”
In the U.N. Security Council, the U.S. declined to support Canada’s traditional, once-a-decade bid for a seat. Canada, an outspoken supporter of Israel, lost to Portugal, a stalwart representative of E.U. ambivalence. The U.S. voted against the infamous “Goldstone Report,” but declined to use its influence to encourage others to do the same. The administration demanded a “total settlement freeze” from Israel and allowed Israeli policies to be denounced in the fiercest terms in the Security Council before exercising its veto. The U.S. brokered a Security Council “compromise” that allowed Israel to be criticized along with Syria.
The administration accepted the 2010 U.N. Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty Review that singled out Israel for condemnation – despite public statements that it would never do that.
There has been an increase in Ballistic Missile Defense cooperation, which is good for Israel: its enemies have missiles. But it represents a completely defensive option. The administration is comfortable with the idea of defending Israel, but by putting Israel in the position of the “defense client” which occupied until 1980, rather than by enhancing its status as a “partner” in mutual defense — this is not a step forward.
Further, defense is irrelevant until after an attack. Any thought Israel has about protecting its citizens through pre-emptive measures is not covered. Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress, “I don’t want to be complicit if they [Israelis] choose to do it [attack Iran’s nuclear program].” That remark must have greatly comforted Iran.
Austere Challenge, a once-cancelled U.S.-Israel missile defense exercise, did go forward at the end of 2012, but in a scaled back mode, most likely to reassure Iran that it was not cover for any offensive activity. In case this dodge was not clear, Gen. Craig Franklin, Commander of U.S. Third Air Force, repeated that point several times in a single interview before the exercise: “It’s purely to provide defensive capabilities with Israel. … This exercise doesn’t look at any particular threat, it looks at a threat scenario that is notional. … This is a military exercise not tied to any particular recent world event, it’s just a notional exercise. … As I mentioned, this is not related to any particular recent world event.”
While missile defense cooperation continues, the Obama administration has taken overt steps to tell the Arab and Muslim world that the U.S. is severable from Israel. The NATO-related air rescue operation Anatolian Eagle was canceled because Turkey would not let Israel participate. Last May, the Administration held Eager Lion 2012, a Special Operations exercise with 19 Arab and Muslim countries, including Egypt, Lebanon and Pakistan.
The tactics and training of Special Operations is an important component of Israel’s “qualitative military edge.” How much of what the U.S. and Israel developed over the years was shared with countries overtly hostile to Israel? Israel was not invited to the May 2012 NATO confab, although 13 NATO “partner nations” were invited to discuss terrorism. Two other U.S.-organized and -led multilateral counterterrorism confabs excluded Israel as well.
When Turkey objected to the sharing of intelligence information with Israel, Secretary of Defense Panetta said no NATO radar intelligence would be shared “outside of NATO.” Secretary Hagel is unlikely to share what Secretary Panetta would not.
The U.S. and Israel continue to share values across the board, share capabilities in certain areas and to acknowledge common threats. President Obama’s visit to Israel later in the month would be an opportune time to think about how to end the current patron-client relationship and restore Israel’s position as a parallel security partner to the United States.
Originally published at the Gatestone Institute, under the title, “The Limits of US-Israel Security Cooperation.”