July 7, 2010
Although media reports tend to dwell on the negative, here is some good news about the U.S.-Israel relationship: A study of the “Arab-Israeli Military Balance in 2010” finds that Israel maintains its “major advantage” over its neighbors when it comes to conventional warfare. This owes in large part to continuing U.S. aid and arms transfers, as authors Anthony H. Cordesman and Aram Nerguizian explain in their report for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. What’s more, the benefits Israel derives from its relationship with the United States “are substantially greater than the dollar figures show because Israel is able to draw on the most advanced U.S. military technology, often on preferential terms, and integrate [it] into its own advanced military industrial base. Israeli political claims that the Obama Administration has somehow distanced itself from a concern with Israel’s security have not been reflected in arms transfers and security cooperation.”
That’s welcome news, and is especially reassuring after what seemed like a clumsy bit of nuclear gamesmanship on the part of the Obama administration. In May, the administration signed a report that included urging Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty — long a demand of Arab countries and an about-face from administration pledges before (and after!) the signing that Israel would not be “singled out” until after a comprehensive Israeli-Arab peace. The United States and Israel have a longstanding agreement to maintain ambiguity on Israel’s nuclear capacity.
Meeting this week with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Obama seemed to address directly Israeli concerns over this issue, assuring Netanyahu that the “United States will never ask Israel to take any steps that would undermine its security interests.” In turn, Netanyahu thanked Obama for “reaffirming the longstanding U.S. commitments to Israel on matters of vital strategic importance.”
The Obama-Netanyahu exchange reminded both sides that the essentials of their relationship are stronger than their disagreements.