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Commentary:U.S. pressing Israel for territorial concessions in trade for defensive weapons

By Shoshana Bryen

Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Andrew J. Shapiro, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, was dispatched last Friday to the Brookings Institution to advance the charm offensive that seeks to convince Israelis and American supporters of Israel that the Obama Administration is Israel’s best friend. He worked hard, but his bottom line was that Israel – not the Palestinians and not the Arab states – needs to do more for peace, specifically the “two state solution” to which the administration is wedded but which appears increasingly unlikely.
He described the work of the U.S.-Israel Joint Political-Military Group (JPMG) and the Defense Policy Advisory Group (DPAG) and touted the Juniper Cobra joint exercise. He talked about Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME). He mentioned money – lots and lots of money for Israel – but missed the $186 million in training and infrastructure so far (with $100 million more in 2010) for the Palestinian Security Force better known as Dayton’s Army. He didn’t mention the $400 million for the Lebanese Armed Forces for training and equipment that is shared with Hezbollah – while unnamed CENTCOM officers speculate about having the United States open relations with Hezbollah. He didn’t talk about what training Israel’s enemies does to the QME. He did mention the decision to notify Congress of the sale to Israel of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) and he talked about Iron Dome.

He didn’t claim the JPMG and DPAG were Obama Administration inventions; just that they were improved but offered no details. He didn’t mention that Juniper Cobra has been around since 2001 – and although this year’s exercise was the largest, they have been growing in size and complexity from the first one. The money comes from a 2007 decision to fix Israel’s Security Assistance as a long-term item. Shapiro said, “The United States supports Israel’s defense needs through both our government-to-government Foreign Military Sales program and Direct Commercial Sales, including releasing advanced products restricted to only the closest of allies and partners.” That would be the JSF, which Israel does not want because it cannot have access to the main computer to install its own systems (the British can’t either). But in March, the administration denied Israel’s request for nine C-130J cargo planes, allowing only one with an option for two more.

One sometimes reliable source noted, “Officials acknowledged that the White House, which endorsed $20 billion worth of arms sales to the Middle East in 2009, has not approved any Israeli requests for combat platforms or other major military sales in 2009 and 2010.” The $20 billion to the Arab states is a known number; we’re still checking on what has been approved for Israel – or not, as it appears.

The $205 million for Israel’s Iron Dome rocket defense system is real. Which leads to the most important thing Shapiro said – and he said it twice.

  • It is our hope that the Administration’s expanded commitment to Israel’s security will advance the process by helping the Israeli people seize this opportunity and take the tough decisions necessary for a comprehensive peace.
  • Bolstering Israel’s security against the rocket threat will not by itself facilitate a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Conversely, a two-state solution will not in and of itself bring an end to these threats. But our support for Iron Dome and similar efforts do provide Israel with the capabilities and the confidence that it needs to take the tough decisions ahead for a comprehensive peace.

“Tough decisions” are a euphemism for ceding territory, ceding political rights, ceding security control to others – Palestinians, intermediaries, multinational forces. There was more in the speech that is worth noting, and we will, but it will take a while before we get over the idea that Obama Administration support for Israel’s defense – such as that support is – is a function of the administration’s determination to have Israel take actions that increase the risk to its people.


Bryen is senior director of security policy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.  Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member.

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