ATLAS SUPPORTED: Strengthening U.S.-Israel Strategic Cooperation

“Beautiful,” is how Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently described the relationship between the United States and Israel, two liberal democratic countries which acutely share many values and security interests.

The United States recognized the State of Israel minutes after the Jewish state was established 70 years ago this month, but a bilateral strategic partnership only began several decades later during the height of the Cold War. Unlike many of Washington’s treaty alliances from that era, the partnership with Jerusalem is not premised on American troops serving as tripwires on Israel’s frontlines. Rather, the purpose is to work closely together to advance shared security interests, including the United States ensuring Israel has the tools to defend itself by itself.

The principal threat to Israel and the United States in the Middle East no longer is the Soviet Union, which long ago collapsed, but is Iran’s ascending hegemony. And most immediately it is Iran’s growing entrenchment in Syria and the rapidly escalating risk of a serious Israel-Iran conflict there and in Lebanon, directly and by proxy. Even as this threat grows, America remains wary of further military engagement in the Middle East beyond the approaching defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, leaving Israel exposed and in need of more and higher quality tools to defend itself and, effectively, U.S. security interests.

Opportunity unfolds from the waning hostility to Israel among Sunni Arab leaders and their growing convergence of interests against Iran, ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood, and the budding of unprecedented, albeit still limited, cooperation. Still, the Israelis and most Sunni Arab states are not, and are unlikely to become, close allies.

This task force was established under the auspices of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA) to examine with fresh eyes how to update the U.S.-Israel security relationship amid dramatic regional changes to meet growing dangers and capitalize on new opportunities. Others before us have articulated compelling arguments for the fundamental importance of bilateral U.S.-Israeli cooperation, so our mission focused instead on concrete recommendations to expand the mutual benefits of this partnership. In addition to our own collective experiences as senior American military officers and policy experts, our research was informed in part by extensive meetings with current and former Israeli national security officials.

We believe the cornerstone of U.S. policy toward the Middle East should be a bolstering of the U.S.-Israel security relationship. Washington can and should support its strategic partner by: elevating Israel to a top-tier ally, on par with Great Britain and Australia; frontloading the military assistance MoU and prepositioning materiel to give Israel more and higher quality tools to defend itself, by itself, against the Iranian and other threats; facilitating expanded cooperation between Israel and our Sunni Arab allies; supporting Israel’s legitimate security needs against the rapidly growing Iranian threat in Syria and Lebanon; and investing together in next- generation military technology and other new frontiers for cooperation.

Israel has always been and remains a pivotal strategic partner. The United States should seize the opportunity to take greater advantage of it.

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Task Force Chairman

ADM James Stavridis, USN (ret.)
Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander and former Commander of U.S. European Command

Task Force Members

Gen Charles “Chuck” Wald, USAF (ret.)
Former Deputy Commander of U.S. European Command

LTG John Gardner, USA (ret.)
Former Deputy Commander of U.S. European Command

Lt Gen Henry Obering, USAF (ret.)
Former Director of U.S. Missile Defense Agency