US Should Form a Closer Military Alliance with Israel
By Adm. James
U.S. spends a great deal of time focusing on the military capabilities
represented by the Middle Eastern nations it rightly considers threats: Iran and
Syria. And we correctly spend much political and military capital working with
our Arab allies and partners, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the United
Arab Emirates, Qatar and
Bahrain. But our best military partner in the region, by far, is Israel–a
point that has been lost amid the fury and posturing over President Obama’s condemnation
of settlements and Donald Trump’s announcement
of both an ambassador and the
decision to move our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The U.S. would
be well served to more fully develop its partnership with the Israel Defense
Forces in several crucial areas as we stand together facing the challenges of
the Middle East.
already cooperate a great deal at a military-to-military level. During my time
as commander of the U.S. European Command, I had responsibility for developing
our shared defensive strategies and tactics, and saw firsthand the quality of
Israeli forces. Their military culture and ethos are world-class, honed in the
crucible of battle in which they have fought to preserve their nation from many
attacks since its creation in 1948. Knowing that they face Arab and Persian
enemies many times their size, they are dedicated to defending their families
and their nation through a combination of guile, technology and true grit.
Israel’s military budget is over 5% of its GDP (a little less than twice that
of the U.S.), it still amounts to less than $20 billion, augmented by an
additional several billion annually in military aid from the U.S. Israel
survives in a hostile environment through innovation, determination and strong
human capital–including a tradition of near universal conscription that
provides a willing force of some 3 million young men and women, with roughly
120,000 entering service annually. This has made them lean and mean while
providing a real benefit to them. We could learn from such commitment.
the most important area of potential cooperation is in the world of
cybersecurity. Israeli intelligence gathering is superb, and the integration of
the Israeli military with the nation’s robust private-sector security firms is
nearly seamless. Israel is also ahead of the U.S. in bringing advancements from
the private sector into public hands; the brightest people constantly flow
between the military and civilian spheres.
second zone of potentially enhanced cooperation is in technology and innovation.
While we have jointly worked on a variety of defense projects over the years
(like the Arrow, which is anti-ballistic-missile technology), this is an area in
which we could enhance each other’s efforts considerably. In addition to
missile defense, doing more together in advanced avionics (as we did with the
F-15), miniaturization (like Israel’s small airborne-warning aircraft) and the
production of low-cost battlefield unmanned vehicles (both air and surface)
would yield strong results.
we should up our game in terms of intelligence cooperation. The Israeli military
and the associated Israeli intelligence services Mossad, Aman and Shin Bet are
the best in the Middle East. Working together, they have been ahead of our more
segregated sectors on a wide range of trends, including the disintegration of
Syria, the events in Egypt and the military and nuclear capability of Iran. Here
we need a more open exchange of information between our two countries
(especially human intelligence from Israel and overhead sensor data from the
U.S.). More liaison officers between military and intelligence commands would
help, as would more frequent conferences and dialogue on principles.
within the opaque world of special forces, we have a great deal we could share
with each other. Having the U.S. Special Operations Command constantly operating
with Israeli commandos would be of enormous benefit to both forces. Both are
expert in battlefield intelligence collection, use of unmanned vehicles, sniper
technology and a host of other specialized skills. Setting up a joint
special-forces training and innovation center for special operations in Israel
would be powerful.
motto of the crack Israeli paratrooper brigade is simple: “Acharai,” which
translates to “Follow me.” The saying stems from the custom of Israeli
commanders’ directly leading their troops into battle, even at the most senior
levels. For the U.S. in the complex Middle East, we would be well served to
follow the Israeli military’s advice on a range of key issues. And likewise,
they would benefit greatly from further intelligence, technology and partnership
with the U.S. It truly is a case of two nations that are unarguably stronger
together–let’s build on what we have to get to the next level.