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An Alliance of Weakness

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu eyes IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi at a ceremony in 2019.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu eyes IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi at a ceremony in 2019. Credit: Eliyahu Herskowitz

With the exception of a short period, the Israeli security doctrine always opposed defense alliances. The main fear was that the ally, necessarily a world power, would dictate Israel’s foreign and defense policy, including the IDF’s freedom of action.

In recent years, especially since Donald Trump entered the White House, Benjamin Netanyahu has been advancing such an alliance. Yaniv Kubovich’s report (Haaretz, Tuesday) that the chief of staff and other top brass were persuaded to support the idea, exposes a profound – and disturbing – change in the Israel’s strategic policy.

In the mid-’50s, the Soviet Union and its satellites aligned themselves alongside Israel’s enemies, flooding the Arab armies with weapons, including game-changing advanced surface-to-air missiles. The Soviets also supported them in international institutions like the UN Security Council.

Worried, Ben-Gurion considered the idea of a defense alliance with the United States. At the time the United States refused to provide Israel with defense weapons even against the Soviet arms, and rejected the Israeli overture out of hand.

Since then, American-Israeli relations have changed dramatically for the better, but the defense establishment has developed a doctrine according to which the United States has complex interests in the Arab-Muslim sphere that would dictate its moves even when Israel is fighting for its survival – as in fact happened when Henry Kissinger saved the Egyptian Third Army in the Yom Kippur War.

About a year ago, after prolonged delay, Netanyahu broached the subject with the military General Staff. Although the IDF’s traditional stance objects to alliances, this time, according to Kubovich’s report, the chief of staff and military top brass announced they had changed their position.

What brought about this cognitive upheaval? Israel is stronger than it has ever been, while its enemies are weaker than ever. In the foreseeable future, none of the states that attacked us in the past poses a strategic danger to us. Iranian divisions, in the style of the Yom Kippur surprise, are not threatening our borders. Their air forces’ capabilities are far inferior to those of our air forces, certainly when it comes to intelligence capabilities, cyber warfare and the rest of the defensive and offensive powers. The enemy’s rocket capabilities may be numerous and dangerous, but in view of Hezbollah and Hamas’ threats – with Iran fueling them – there’s no need for a defense treaty. Considering such an idea favorably in principle conveys weakness.

What remains? Iran. The answer to Iran’s threat isn’t in forging an alliance, which may limit our ability to act on our firm objection to the regime of the ayatollahs’ nuclear policy, based on our understanding of the situation and profound security needs.

This has happened before. The United States has abandoned allies, in the Middle East as well. The awful agreement Barack Obama concocted with the ayatollahs may not amount to actual abandonment, but it was a display of weakness on the part of the United States and of Europe, which joined the agreement, in view of Iran’s extortionists.


U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this week that Iran is expected to attain nuclear arms production ability within a few weeks. What is the United States planning to do to prevent that? Yes, to return to the disastrous Obama agreement. In keeping with the current conciliatory American policy.

The chief of staff knows an alliance won’t prevent Iran from producing a bomb. On the contrary, it will only increase the motivation to produce it. What made him suddenly lose heart?

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