Despite the growing tension across bilateral relations between the US and Israel, triggered by different approaches to Iran’s nuclear program, military cooperation between the two countries doesn’t seem to be affected at all by the recent face-off between US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Even though the United States has been providing support to a number of states in the Middle East, Israel remains the most loyal ally of Washington in the region due to its dependence on both US diplomatic and military capabilities. In December 2014, President Obama signed a United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act that had previously been approved by Congress. It constitutes the further comprehensive strengthening of military cooperation and the creation of a framework for cooperation in scientific and technological research. According to this act, the financial assistance that the US will be providing to Israel in case of a “military confrontation” in the region will increase by 200 million dollars (up to 1.8 billion), and will ensure a clear qualitative degree of military superiority for Israel over its neighbors. The act underlines that Israel’s interests should be taken into consideration whenever Washington decides to supply arms to other Middle Eastern countries.
Intelligence agencies of the US and Israel are working in close cooperation in a number of areas, in particular, on spying activities against Iran. In this context, one recalls the development of the so-called Stuxnet spyware and the consequent attack against Iran’s nuclear sites aimed at inflicting the maximum possible damage. Another example of intelligence cooperation has recently been reported by the Washington Post which stated that US and Israeli agencies worked in cooperation to assassinate the leader of Hezbollah, Imad Mughniyah, who was murdered in Damascus in 2008.
Previously the data that had been obtained by the agents of these two countries on Iran’s nuclear program was transferred to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which led to the introduction of sanctions against Iran. However, the recent speech presented by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the US Congress has resulted in bilateral relations between the US and Israel hitting an all time low, which allowed journalists to speculate about the possible break up of cooperation on spying against Iran.
As part of the previously signed agreements between the two countries on military strategic cooperation, Israel’s Head of Military Intelligence Hertzi HaLevi will be visiting Washington this week to discuss the possible security guarantees from the United States in case Washington should sign and agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, along with exploring the possibilities of further military cooperation between the states. This will be the first visit of Israeli Major General Hertzi HaLevi to the United States after his promotion to the Head of Military Intelligence last September. In particular, he will be interested in receiving an additional 317 million dollars from the US Congress to develop additional defense capabilities for the Jewish state. These millions should allow Israeli authorities to improve Arrow 3 and David’s Sling anti-missile defense systems. Should the Congress fulfill this request, the US budget will expand to an additional 158 million dollars for military aid to Israel. In a situation when tensions are growing between the two states after Netanyahu’s speech, Israel’s Head of Military Intelligence has little chance of getting anything from the White House, therefore the Republicans remain his only hope of getting additional funds.
According to some Israeli news agencies, this visit will not simply serve the development of bilateral military cooperation, but it will also allow Hertzi HaLevi to establish closer personal relationships with the recently appointed United States Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter. A number of Israeli media sources underline that Ashton Carter has been an ‘Israeli Sympathizer’ for many years, since he had previously been tasked with the preparation of meetings between representatives of the Pentagon and senior officials of the Israeli Ministry of Defense.
Vladimir Platov, an expert on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”