Photo Credit: US Air Force
Flags of Israel and the United States

In October 2021 and January 2020, Israeli intelligence alerted the United States to Iranian drone and missile attacks on U.S. military installations in southern Syria and Iraq. Two hundred U.S. soldiers (in Syria) and 1,500 U.S. soldiers (in Iraq) took effective shelter.

The scope of intelligence shared with the United States by Israel exceeds that provided by all NATO countries combined. It includes data on Iran’s global terrorism and nuclear and ballistic programs; Islamic terrorism targeting the United States and pro-U.S. Arab regimes; battle tactics and military systems of U.S. rivals and enemies; Israeli-developed technologies and battle tactics; Soviet nuclear-equipped intercontinental ballistic missiles, and more.

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According to General George Keegan, former head of U.S. Air Force Intelligence: “I could not have procured the intelligence [received from Israel] with five CIAs.” The annual budget of one CIA is around $15 billion.

Israel is the most cost-effective battle-testing laboratory for U.S. defense industries, employing (with much gratitude!) hundreds of U.S. military systems, sharing with the U.S. manufacturers lessons learned (operation, maintenance, repairs), which are later integrated as upgrades. These upgrades enhance U.S. global competitiveness, spare the United States billions of dollars and many years of research and development, increase U.S. exports and expand U.S. employment.

According to Lockheed-Martin, Israel’s use of the F-16 fighter jet has yielded over 700 upgrades, netting the manufacturer a mega-billion-dollar bonanza. A similar bonanza was received by McDonnell-Douglas, the manufacturer of the F-15 fighter. The benefits to the United States deriving from Israel’s experience with the more sophisticated and expensive F-35 are substantially higher.

According to the late Admiral Elmo Zumwalt and General Alexander Haig, “Israel is the largest US aircraft carrier, which does not require American soldiers on board, cannot be sunk, and is deployed in a most critical region, economically and militarily, sparing the US the need to manufacture, deploy and maintain more real aircraft carriers and additional ground divisions, which would cost the US some $15 billion annually.”

The formulation of U.S. battle tactics is largely based on Israel’s battle experience. For instance, U.S. special operations units (on their way to Iraq and previously to Afghanistan) and urban warfare specialists are trained in Israel. The U.S. Air Force benefits greatly from joint maneuvers with the Israeli Air Force, which possesses much more battle experience, shedding light on the far-reaching capabilities of U.S.-made combat aircraft.

Israel is an innovation hub (second only to the United States), hosting more than 200 U.S. tech giants, which operate research and development centers in the country, leveraging the brain power of the “Start Up Nation.”

Israel is a unique commercial and defense force-multiplier for the United States, extending America’s strategic reach without the presence of U.S. troops (unlike Europe, South Korea and Japan), while deterring and preempting regional rogue entities, which threaten the United States and pro-U.S. Arab regimes.

More data is available here.

2. From misperceived liability to unique asset

In 1948, the State Department, Pentagon, CIA, The New York Times and the Washington Post opposed the establishment of the Jewish state, considering it a feeble pro-Soviet entity, unable to withstand an Arab offensive; a burden on the United States.

Israel’s 1967 victory obliterated the military of then pro-Soviet Egypt, which aimed to topple every pro-U.S. Arab oil-producing regime, at a time when the United States was heavily dependent upon Persian Gulf oil. It spared the United States a major economic and national security setback and dealt a severe blow to the USSR. Israel shared with the United States captured Soviet military systems (including surface-to-air missile batteries and tanks) and game-changing battle tactics. This event changed the U.S. perception of Israel from burden to asset.

In December 1969, an Israeli commando unit snatched from Egypt the most advanced Soviet P-12 radar system, transferred its technologies to the United States (the Senate Intelligence Committee assessed the value of this gift at $3 billion), enhancing the capabilities of U.S. defense industries and the U.S. armed forces.

In 1966, 1968 and 1989, Israel acquired (through defecting Arab pilots) Mig-21, 17 and 23 fighter jets, which were shared with the United States, upgrading the U.S. Air Force capabilities.

In 1970, Israel demonstrated its effective posture of deterrence, forcing pro-Soviet Syria to roll back its invasion of pro-U.S. Jordan by buttressing its military presence on the Syria-Israel-Jordan border (the Golan Heights)—at the request of the United States—at a time when the United States was bogged down in Southeast Asia.

In 1981, Israel destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactor, sparing the United States a potential nuclear confrontation in the 1991 Gulf War.

The transformation of Iran (1978/79) and Turkey (2003) from favored U.S. allies to major enemy/adversaries highlighted Israel as the only effective, reliable and democratic Middle East U.S. ally.

In 2007, Israel destroyed the Syrian-Iranian-North Korean nuclear reactor, sparing the globe a potential nuclearized civil war in Syria.

Since 2010, the “Arab Tsunami” has traumatized the Arab Street, underscoring Israel’s role as a unique U.S. ally, against the backdrop of the inherently intra-Arab violence, instability, unpredictability and tenuous nature of Arab regimes, policies and accords.

In 2021, the United States could terminate its military presence in the Persian Gulf if there were an Israel-like entity in that region.

More data is available here.

3. Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME) benefits the United States

Israel’s QME has:

• Upgraded its posture as a U.S. beachhead and force multiplier—with no need for U.S. soldiers—in the inherently explosive junction of Europe, Asia and Africa, between the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf, which is an epicenter of regional and global Islamic terrorism, the proliferation of ballistic technologies, and drug trafficking.

• Bolstered its performance as a cost-effective battle-testing laboratory for the U.S. defense industry and armed forces, increasing U.S. exports, expanding U.S. employment and enhancing the formulation of U.S. battle tactics.

• Reinforced Israel’s posture of deterrence against Islamic terrorist organizations and rogue regimes, which have targeted the United States and all pro-U.S. Arab regimes.

• Constrained the maneuverability of Iran, Syria and Russia in Syria and Lebanon, serving as a critical line of defense for the highly vulnerable pro-U.S Hashemite regime in Jordan.

• Scaled down regional instability, reducing the threat of regional wars and terrorism, while enticing the relatively moderate and pro-U.S. Arab regimes to seek peace and normalization with Israel.

• Motivated the Arab Gulf States—in the face of Iran’s ayatollahs—to dramatically improve ties with Israel.

• Facilitated relatively swift and decisive military operations—with fewer losses to both sides—limiting the scope of Israel-Arab conflicts, regionally and globally.

• Eased a gradual U.S. military withdrawal from the Middle East, while Israel’s military capabilities fill in the geo-strategic void.

However, Israel’s QME is not an effective substitute for the topography of the Golan Heights and the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), which dominate the geographic sliver along the Mediterranean of pre-1967 Israel.  Israel’s QME could be erased tomorrow, not so its topographic edge.

More data is available here.

Conclusion

The aforementioned data reaffirms the fact that the United States’ annual $3.8 billion constitute a most productive investment in—not foreign aid to—Israel, yielding an annual rate of return of several hundred percent.

Thus, U.S.-Israel relations constitute a mutually beneficial two-way street—with the flow of benefits from Israel to the United States expanding by the day.

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Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger is consultant to Israel’s Cabinet members and Israeli legislators, and lecturer in the U.S., Canada and Israel on Israel’s unique contributions to American interests, the foundations of U.S.-Israel relations, the Iranian threat, and Jewish-Arab issues.