The Barak-Clinton joint communique was, as such documents generally are, a summary of the positive elements of the visit – restructuring U.S. aid to Israel to permit greater military and less economic assistance; announcement of the U.S. funding of the third Arrow missile battery; and expanded collaboration on technologies and systems to deal with the ballistic missile threat. Good things all.
The Barak-Clinton joint communique was, as such documents generally are, a summary of the positive elements of the visit – restructuring U.S. aid to Israel to permit greater military and less economic assistance; announcement of the U.S. funding of the third Arrow missile battery; and expanded collaboration on technologies and systems to deal with the ballistic missile threat. Good things all. And it is always nice to restate the enduring basis of the U.S.-Israel relationship – “shared democratic values, bonds of friendship, common interests and joint cooperation in so many areas of human endeavor.” You can’t say that about too many sets of bilateral ties.
So we hesitate to nit-pick, but we believe American policies and interests should be reflected in any statement our government releases in cooperation with foreign leaders. Two elements of the Clinton-Barak statement are disingenuous:
1. “President Clinton reiterated the steadfast commitment of the United States to Israel’s security, to maintain its qualitative edge, and to strengthen Israel’s ability to deter and defend itself, by itself, against any threat or a possible combination of threats.”
“Qualitative edge” is comprised of three elements: 1) superior equipment, 2) superior tactics and training, and 3) superior personnel. For the past several years, the U.S. has been largely responsible for erosion in two of the three areas, and we are not in a position to restore it. In the “olden days” when the Arabs were largely Soviet equipped and Israel was largely American equipped, it was clear that Israel had the edge in equipment, tactics and training. Today, the U.S. is selling Egypt top-of-the-line equipment while the Egyptian military blatantly calls Israel its potential adversary. The U.S. is selling the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia large numbers of top-of-the-line aircraft while Israel is limited in ability to buy what it needs. And as for tactics and training, the U.S. provides that along with its equipment, and Arab military officers study at all American institutions of higher military education and training. The quality of Israeli personnel remains, fortunately, unaffected by American policy.
2. “President Clinton and Prime Minister Barak agreed that Israel faces new challenges in the strategic arena, particularly the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles that threaten to undermine Israel’s security. In this context, the two leaders agreed to step up the overall bilateral cooperation and coordination, as well as to implement a number of measures designed to help Israel meet these emerging threats.”
We strongly agree as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough.Everything said about the threat to Israel applies to the United States and our interests at home and abroad. Israel is far ahead of Mr. Clinton in understanding a government’s responsibility for the defense of its people from ballistic missile attack. U.S.-Israel cooperation on missile defense and joint approach to the threat of proliferation would be a benefit to the United States, not a gift to Israel. Israel is not a supplicant here and shouldn’t be treated as one.