In my last blog, I rebuked the New York Times columnist Tom Friedman for his irresponsible statement that the Israel lobby “bought” the U.S. Congress. One of the points I made in explaining why Congressional support is so strong is that Israel is our only reliable ally in the Middle-East.
The Arab Spring has morphed into an uncertain, possibly frigid winter. Most recently, we are witnessing the implosion of Iraq’s body politic, with sectarian warfare unfettered by the security provided by U.S. troops. So after 4,500 of our troops were killed, dozens of thousands wounded, and close to a trillion dollars of our treasure spent, we may be back to the days before the “surge,” with Al Qaeda and other radicals and Iran ready to fill the vacuum.
Israel’s reliability and unique assets have been outlined by Robert Blackwell, the Kissinger Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Walter Slocombe, a defense expert, in a recently published paper, “Israel: A Strategic Asset for the United States.” This was commissioned by the highly regarded Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Its president, Martin Gross, is one of our best supporters. The paper can be accessed at the Institute’s website: www.washingtoninstitute.org.
In it, the authors outline the benefits of the Israel-U.S. strategic relationship in intelligence, joint development of anti-missile defenses, joint training and exercises, sharing of information on urban warfare and tactical intelligence, advances in cyber-security, destroying Iraq’s and Syria’s nuclear capabilities, and many others.
They note that in this age of terrorism, Israeli technology promotes American interests. Increasingly, U.S. homeland security and military agencies are turning to Israeli technology to solve some of their most vexing technical problems. This support ranges from advice and expertise on behavioral screening techniques for airport security to acquiring an Israeli-produced tactical radar system to enhance force protection. Israel has been a world leader in the development of unmanned aerial systems, for both intelligence collection and combat, and it has shared with the U.S. military the technology, the doctrine, and its experience regarding these systems. Israel is also a global pacesetter in active measures for armored vehicle protection, defense against short-range rocket threats, and the techniques and procedures of robotics, all of which it has shared with the United States.
U. S. financial assistance to Israel is very significant, most of which is spent in the U.S. But Israel’s defense industries also benefit the U.S.
One result is the growing importance to the U.S. military of Israeli defense goods, as the United States has taken advantage of access to unique Israeli capabilities in key “niche” areas of military technology. Among the Israeli developed defense equipment used by the U.S. military are short-range unmanned aircraft systems that have seen service in Iraq and Afghanistan; targeting pods on hundreds of Air Force, Navy, and Marine strike aircraft; a revolutionary helmet-mounted sight that is standard in nearly all frontline Air Force and Navy fighter aircraft; lifesaving armor installed in thousands of armored vehicles used in Iraq and Afghanistan; and a gun system for close-in defense of naval vessels against terrorist dinghies and small-boat swarms.
They conclude that We are, however, convinced that in a net assessment those real costs (to the U.S. of its alliance with Israel) are markedly outweighed by the many ways in which Israel bolsters U.S. national interests and the benefits that Israel provides to those interests.
In particular, we believe that the United States can have strong and productive relations with Arab and other Muslim nations while sustaining its intimate collaboration with Israel and that U.S. support for Israel is not the primary — and probably not even a dominant — reason Islamist terrorists target the United States. The long-standing commitment to Israel has not prevented development of close ties with Arab nations who understand that however much they disagree with U.S. support for Israel, they benefit from a good relationship with the United States on other issues. Nor has it made the Arab oil-exporting states any less conscious of their own economic and strategic interest in a reasonably stable flow of oil to world markets, or their eagerness to buy first-class military equipment from the United States or to enjoy the benefits of U.S. protection against Iranian or other aggression.
Is it no wonder that so many U.S. generals laud the strategic relationship with Israel?
This makes Tom Friedman’s libel so hurtful.
While Israeli leaders have made mistakes and in some cases blundered in the public relation wars, Friedman’s recurring and ad hominem attacks on Israel’s leaders seem almost visceral. It reminds me of my days of being a waiter in the Catskills when I encountered a cranky couple who always whined. Exasperated, I responded: “Is there anything okay?”
As I stated earlier, Friedman’s vision of a two-state solution is generally the consensus position. Achieving this is the dilemma.
The Israeli Government is not perfect. Neither is ours. But libeling Congress, and by implication, the American people and our right to lobby via AIPAC and others, is beyond the bounds of honest debate.
Tom Friedman — come home to what you were taught at the Minneapolis Talmud Torah. Love Israel while trying to keep it accountable for its mistakes, and don’t resort to falsehoods and libels, which have been the province of the enemies of Israel.