Coercion or Cooperation

The task of Israel's delegation to Washington will involve not only repairing the weakened relations; it will also be tested by its success in preventing damage to Israeli security industries.

The Americans are correct in claiming that only they are allowed to decide what the security interests of their country are. But that's only a half truth. When the Americans sell weapons to Arab countries, they sometimes explain that these transactions will not undermine Israel's security. Even if Israel has a different assessment, it cannot react with punitive steps, as Washington did in the affair of the Israeli weapons for China. That is the difference between a great power, even if it is a friend and an ally, and a small country like Israel, which receives billions of dollars in defense assistance from Washington.

The Israeli delegation that went to Washington to coordinate policy with the U.S. has to formulate a new memo of understanding regarding methods of monitoring the sale of Israeli defense equipment. The delegation's task will involve not only repairing the weakened relations; it will also be tested by its success in preventing damage to Israeli security industries.

A memo of understanding forced on Israel will badly harm Israeli industry, as well as defense-related research and development. It is also liable to arouse a negative reaction from the clients of the Israeli defense industry. A bad memo will lead to the conclusion that Israeli has lost the ability to decide independently. The countries that want to purchase various weapons systems must be following the present debate between Israel and the U.S. with interest. There are probably countries that don't want Washington to check into the details of their plans through those countries' transactions with Israel. For example, Singapore, or France, which also buys from Israel, or India.

At present, Washington is improving its relations with India because of U.S. rivalry with China, and therefore has no objection to Israeli dealings with India. But a few years ago, the Americans objected to certain Israeli transactions with India, for example, the Green Pine radar system. "If Israel gives in on all its positions in the memo of understanding being formulated between it and Washington, those countries will say that this how the United States will be able to peer into our underwear," explains one of the heads of the Israeli defense industries.

We must not forget that there is commercial competition between the Israeli and American defense industries. Israel has no problem when it comes to fair competition. Israel has already defeated large American companies, even when it comes to renovating and upgrading old American weapons systems. That was the case, for example, in Turkey, which wanted to renovate its Phantom jets. This competition exists in other countries as well - like Singapore, Thailand and South Korea.

The conclusion is that the memo of understanding must be signed between Israel and the U.S. Administration. This is not a memo between the Israeli government and the American defense industries. The expectation is that details of the transactions being conducted by Israel will be examined in terms of security by the U.S., and not in order to enable American defense firms to compete with Israel and bring down its industries. Such a situation is contrary to the rules of fundamental decency.

Even if the Israeli representatives ensure that the new memo of understanding is fair, Israel will certainly be harmed. That was how Israel's good name was damaged by the incorrect claim that parts of the Harpy drone (a small unmanned plane) that were sent back from China were meant for upgrading rather than repair. If Washington were willing to open the American market to fair competition with the Israeli defense industries, proper compensation for Israel would be found. That is not happening, and it is doubtful whether it will happen in the near future.