Saudi Arabia has asked the United States, as part of its likely agreement to normalize ties with Israel, to do three things: commit to a defense pact with Riyadh; provide the Saudis with access to advanced American weaponry; and help the Saudis create a civilian nuclear program. Of the three, it is the defense pact that has the best chance of being granted. And this provides an opening for Israel to ask for the same thing. After all, Israel — unlike Saudi Arabia — shares the democratic values of the United States, with no Khashoggi skeletons in its closet, and is a formidable military and intelligence power — unlike Saudi Arabia — that could be of immense help to Washington in a future conflict in the region. More on that possible U.S.-Israel defense pact can be found here.
Israel should seek an existential defense treaty with the United States of America as part of broader agreements between them and Saudi Arabia, the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) proposed on Wednesday morning [Sept. 27].
A defense treaty between the US and Israel would secure their “special relationship,” and create deterrence against Middle Eastern nuclear actors. INSS suggested that the treaty would only apply to extreme threats in the region, and, for the US, would not include non-existential terrorist threats like Hezbollah and Hamas.
That “Middle Eastern nuclear actor” refers to only one state — Iran — and such a defense pact would make Iran think long and hard before launching any attack, conventional or nuclear, against Israel, knowing that not only would it face retaliation by the Jewish state, but also attack from the United States.
With such a pact, Israel would gain access to advanced American weaponry and technologies to help maintain its qualitative advantage. INSS said that while critics may contend that Israeli operations would be restricted by Washington, in practice it already consults with the US on major military and political decisions.
As part of normalization talks, Riyadh has been requesting a defense pact with Washington in recent talks, said INSS, a “supreme strategic commitment” of the type that the US has avoided making since the signing of a 1960 agreement with Japan. This has created a window of opportunity for Israel according to the think tank; Israel should also request one as part of this framework.
For decades, Israel has had a “special relationship” with the United States, and has long been consulting with Washington on major military matters. Israel has battle-tested many American weapons, and its successful use of some of those weapons has helped to encourage other militaries to buy them. It has also made improvements to American weapons, based on battlefield experience with them, and shared those improvements with the Pentagon. Furthermore, Israel’s own weapons, some more advanced than those in the American arsenal, have always been shared with Washington. With such a close military relationship between Israel and the U.S. already flourishing, it would not be much of a leap to formalize it with a mutual defense pact. Israel would have not merely a bidenite promise that “America has Israel’s back,” but an ironclad commitment, akin to that made by NATO members to one another, to come to Israel’s defense in case of a major conflict. And Israel would certainly come to America’s defense in the Middle East, against both an enemy state — Iran — and against terror groups, should any decide to target American military bases in the region, as Hezbollah did when it bombed Marines in Lebanon in 1983, killing 241.
With such a defense pact, the military alliance would only be activated for major threats. Israel would not have to consult with the U.S. in dealing with local terror groups such as Hamas and PIJ; it could continue to fight them, even attacking them preemptively, as it saw fit. Its freedom of action would remain just as it is now. It is state actors — Iran and its ally Syria — that would trigger the mutual defense mechanism. And with such a pact, America is assured of unequalled military and intelligence help in the Middle East from its strongest military power, and Israel, in turn, will be buoyed by having a formal pact committing the Americans to come to Israel’s aid in suppressing a conventional or nuclear threat from Iran.
If Israel is to obtain a NATO-style mutual defense pact with the U.S., now is the time — when Saudi Arabia will almost certainly be provided with such a pact — for it to make its own request, and mobilize its supporters in Congress. Even for the Bidenites, it will be politically impossible to provide such a commitment to Saudi Arabia and then deny the same to Israel.