18.09.2019 Author: Valery Kulikov

Demonstrative Strengthening of US-Israel Ties Harms Arab Interests


With the next US presidential election approaching, Donald Trump twitted that he had a conversations with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the possibility of striking a defence pact between Washington and Tel-Aviv.

Thus, the head of the American state hasn’t just directly affected the internal political situation in Israel at the height of Netanyahu’s agitation campaign, but has also shown the world who is the most important ally of the United States in the Middle East.

An example of the pact that Washington may choose to put in place with Israel can be drawn from Article 5 of the NATO Treaty, that enrished the principle of collective defence. According to this document that came into force in 1949, Washington is bound to provide direct military support to those NATO member states that became victims of outside aggression. Two years down the line, the US signed a similar deal with Australia and New Zealand, that was followed by the security guarantees provided to South Korea in 1953 and Japan in 1960.

As for Israel, it’s noteworthy that the strategic relations between the United States and Israel date back to the emergence of an independent Jewish state. The cooperation between the two states received a significant impetus in mid-1960s, as Washington decided it needed a player that would put a foot in the door of the growing Soviet influence across the Middle East.

John F. Kennedy became the first US president to abandon the balance of power between Israel and the Arab states in favor of the US-Israeli strategic partnership as early as in 1962, when he announced that: “The United States has a special relationship with Israel…”

Starting with Lyndon Johnson, the US started ensuring that Israel would always have an upper hand in a possible military conflict with its Arab neighbours. Those ties received a significant boost in the aftermath of the Six-Day War of 1967, when Washington handed out its self-declared genderme responsibilities in the Middle East to Tel-Aviv, providing it with both the modern military equipment, political and financial support, to the detriment of the interests of a number of Arab players.

Without this assistance, Tel-Aviv would never dare to launch the delusional military occupation of Southern Lebanon that was maintained for a total of two decades, nor would it dream about ressetling 400 thousand Jews to Eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Without the extensive support that Washington has been providing to Tel-Aviv, there was no way for IDF to transform into a highly mobile, well-armed combat force that it is these days.

The existing US-Israel strategic alliance is founded on a number of deals that form the legal basis of the military cooperation between the two states. The Memorandum of Understanding on Strategic Cooperation of 1981 formalized the military component of the cooperation the two states established, providing the United States Sixth Fleet with an opportunity to take advantage of Israeli ports, along with the Pentagon receiving an opportunity to deploy all sorts of weapons systems across Israel. The memorandum of understanding of January 1987 granted Israel the status of a principal ally of the United States outside NATO. But all through the long history of close military cooperation between the two states, there has never been a formal military pact between the two countries.

Concerning the possibility of Tel-Aviv agreeing to conclude a “defense alliance” with the United States, there’s a lot of mixed opinions on this issue. There’s little doubt that Benjamin Netanyahu and his supporters were pleased with the announcement of such a possibility on the eve of the parliamentary elections in Israel.

At the same time, a number of Israeli politicians argue that such an agreement could deprive the country of the opportunity to act independently, as it would be bound to coordinate a great many of its highly controversial steps with Washington, since Israel’s obligations to the United States can lead to Tel-Aviv being forced into fulfilling any demand that Washington may choose to voice. Among the opponents of the idea to sign a defence pact with Washington there’s Lieutenant General Beni Ganz – Benjamin Netanyahu’s principal political rival.

However, the announcement made by Donald Trump on Twitter can be viewed in a completely different fashion, as it means that Washington chose to put an end to its ties with the Arab world, as even those Persian Gulf monarchies that always follow in the wake of Washington’s policies will have a hard time explaining their special relations with the US to their respective populations after such a deal between Tel-Aviv and Washington is struck. Additionally, the US would no longer be able to pretend to be a impartial mediator in Middle Eastern disputes that settles regional conflicts in a fair and objective fashion.

This latest step that Trump has made on the back of his decisions to ban visitors from a number of Middle Eastern states from traveling to the US, that was followed by his unilateral position on recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state, will mark the turning point in the way Arabs perceive the United States, as it would be in no position to claim that it’s a genuine friend to a number of regional players.

It is highly unlikely that this notion would be disputed by such a state as Turkey, which has recently grown aware of a long list of inconveniences that are associated with enjoying close ties with the United States, which resulted in a prolonged crisis in its bilateral relations with Washington that led to its rapprochement with Russia and the purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems. Washington chose to ignore Ankara’s position on the Kurdish role in the Syrian conflict and refused to extradite the runaway opposition leader Fethullah Gulen to Turkey.

There’s little doubt that Washington’s plans to conclude a defence pact with Tel Aviv have been in the works for a long time. Against this background, the White House’s attempts to spoil Russia’s military cooperation with the countries of the Middle Eastern region present themselves in a different light, as the US wanted to make the region complete dependant on American and Israeli weapon shipments. Certain US representatives put pressure on Russia’s traditional defence partners in the Middle East, by threatening them with “negative consequences” of their cooperation with Russia. In spite of this, Turkey is hardly the only state that is willing to buy Russian weapon systems across the Middle East region, as the number of states interested in acquiring the S-400 air defense missile system and other modern Russian weapons is growing, as they are priced competitively and come with no strings attached.

The inevitable consequence of the US-Israeli alliance is an ever increasing number of Muslim states growing critical of the US approach to the Middle East. Under these conditions, the United States has no other option than to try to play the Kurdish card. However, this 50 million people, deprived of their statehood, have already had the opportunity to experience a number of inconsistencies in the US foreign policy, hence it’s unlikely that they would agree to enter Washington’s new regional coalition with Israel only to become a hostage of American political games once again.

As for the major Muslim players of the region, against this background they will lean towards cooperation with the emerging centers of power, namely Russia and China.

Valery Kulikov, expert politologist, exclusively for the online magazine ‘New Eastern Outlook’.

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