JINSA to ‘Post’: Defense Pact Wouldn’t Restrict Israel Freedom of Movement

WASHINGTON – A mutual defense treaty between the US and Israel would not restrict Israel’s freedom of operation, Michael Makovsky, president and CEO of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA), told The Jerusalem Post.

JINSA has been at the forefront of this issue for 18 months and created a draft treaty in July, which has gained the support of Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. “I tink it will be the biggest advancement in a long time regarding the US-Israel relationship, and I think it will be the biggest deterrent to a big war in a very long time,” Graham said at JINSA’s gala event in Washington last month. “My hope is that we can draft a mutual defense agreement that is consistent with Israel’s ability to defend herself, consistent with the United States’ strategic interest – which is to make sure that our NO. 1 ally in the region doesn’t go by the wayside.”

“If we can pull this off,” he added, “I think it would be one of the most important things we’ve ever done to solidify this relationship. I think it will have a calming effect on a region that needs some calm.”

Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer said that Israel’s top officials would welcome such a treaty.

“That’s something that I strongly support,” the ambassador said. “The treaty would do three things. First, it would give powerful expression to the alliance between American and Israel. The second thing it would provide is a layer of deterrence against the most extreme threats that Israel faces, thereby enhancing both security and stability. And third, it would give a platform to upgrade the alliance between our two countries dramatically. I strongly believe that the mutual defense treaty is part of the effort to strengthen the alliance.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been trying to promote such a pact in recent months. he discussed it with US President Donald Trump before Israel’s September elections. Netanyahu addressed the pact again on Monday, and said he spoke at length with Trump on Sunday “about the historic opportunities that we will have in the coming months – among them, the Jordan Valley as the recognized eastern border of the State of Israel as well as defensive alliance with the US.”

Netanyahu said these were things that “we could only dream about, but which now we have the opportunity to implement.”

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, however, said on Monday that his party “does not support any agreement that will limit operations undertaken by the State of Israel or the ability of the IDF to defend itself against the threats it faces.”

“I have a strong appreciation for our strategic relationship with the United States, our great ally with whom we share deeply rooted values and common interests,” he added. “But there arise serious concerns that a prime minister preoccupied with his own affairs may permit the limitation of our security forces’ freedom of action, in clear contradiction to the position held by our security mechanisms for decades.”

According to Makovsky, “the treaty explicitly says that it doesn’t [restrict Israel’s freedom of movement]. In reality, the Untied States has mutual defense pacts with about 50 other countries, and it hasn’t restricted America’s freedom of movement and hasn’t restricted the freedom of movement of other countries,” he said.

“It didn’t restrict the freedom of movement of the British when they went into the Falklands Islands [in 1982]. It didn’t restrict freedom of movement of the French in Mali or in Algeria decades ago. History doesn’t support that view. I know that is the concern of a number of people who have criticized the mutual defense pact, but I’m not concerned about that at all.”

“We drafted it as a way forward – as a basis for discussion,” he clarified. “I have no inside information if that’s going be what they’re going to adopt.”

Asked what the need for such a pact is, Makovsky said it could contribute to stability in the region, “just like the 50 other mutual defense pacts of the United States; they’ve also contributed to stability.”

“The trajectory in the region is of a major war between Iran and Hezbollah, and Israel. That’s not in the US interest to happen,” he said. “So, we want to try to reduce the chances of such a war, because that war not only is it not in our interest, because it would affect Israel, but it would likely spill over to other parts of the region.”

“We want to deter that war from happening, and if it breaks out to kind of mitigate the intensity and the scope of that war,” he continued. “So, I think in the US interest it would have a lot of value. I would add that it’s not the only element that we believe is important. We also put out a paper right before the annual dinner two weeks ago that also talked about accelerating delivery of weapons to Israel under the 10-year MOU.”

Originally published inĀ The Jerusalem Post.