Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, has expressed the world view of the Bush Administration, stating that “Passivity in face of threats, breeds more violence.”
Prime Minister Sharon will meet in DC the George W. Bush Administration, which – unlike the Bill Clinton Administration – considers Israel a potential strategic ally in the context of global and regional conflicts between US values and interests and those of radical regimes.
The Bush Administration’s order of priorities in the Mideast does not focus on the Oslo Process and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Rather, it focuses on three major threats, which have been largely independent of the Arab-Israeli conflict: Islamic terrorism, the proliferation of ballistic missiles and the threat of radical regimes such as Iraq and Iran. ISRAEL HAS THE POTENTIAL TO ADVANCE THE US BATTLE AGAINST EACH OF THESE THREATS, irrespective of US-Israel disagreements over the Arab-Israeli conflict. On the other hand, THE PLO – AND SOME OF THE ARAB REGIMES – HAVE PLAYED A MAJOR ROLE IN EXACERBATING EACH OF THESE THREATS!
SHARED VALUES, JOINT INTERESTS AND MUTUAL THREAT – RATHER THAN A JOINT STANCE ON THE RESOLUTION OF THE PALESTINIAN ISSUE – HAVE FORGED THE FOUNDATION OF THE SPECIAL TIES BETWEEN THE US AND ISRAEL. President Bush and Vice President Cheney will not adopt the Likud Party platform. They may exert temporary forms of pressure on Israel. However, unlike the Clinton Administration and just like the Reagan Administration, THEY WILL NOT ALLOW A SHORT-TERM TENSION OVER A SECONDARY PRIORITY (OSLO PROCESS OR THE GOLAN HEIGHTS) TO UNDERMINE THE BENEFITS EMBEDDED IN THE LONG-TERM US-ISRAEL MUTUALLY-BENEFICIAL COOPERATION TOWARD A TOP PRIORITY (REGIONAL THREATS).
In 1970, in response to a request by President Nixon, Israel demonstrated its capabilities and willingness to cooperate with the US, in order to promote joint essential concerns. Israel deployed its reserve and regular military, rolling back the pro-Soviet Syrian invasion of pro-US Jordan. Israel’s mobilization prevented the downfall of King Hussein and a radical pro-Soviet domino scenario into Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and Egypt, with its devastating energy repercussions. It spared the US the very costly need to deploy its already-stretched forces, during the Vietnam and Cambodia Wars, which could have caused another USSR-USA confrontation. In 1981, Israel bombed Iraq’s nuclear reactor, providing the US with the conventional option against Saddam in the 1991 Gulf War. It spared the US a horrific nuclear war, along with its massive human losses and mega billion dollar cost. In 1982, Israel shared with the US the military tactics and technologies, which devastated Soviet-made Syrian aircraft and air-defense systems. The Israeli operation saved the US tax-payer a few billion dollars in R&D expenditures and vital time required to develop similar technologies and capabilities. It eroded the Soviet strategic posture and upgraded that of the US.
The US would have to deploy tens of thousand of US servicemen, costing some $100BN per annum, in order to replace Israel’s contribution to US interests in term of deterrence, intelligence, R&D, joint exercises, operations, runways, ports, prepositioning of military systems and ammunition, military hospitals, etc.
The Israeli strategic profile in the Mideast was not designed, or capable, to face off the Soviet strategic threats. On the other hand, Israel has been endowed with capabilities, fitting for regional tactical threats, currently facing the US. These threats have proliferated and intensified since the demise of the USSR, hence the potential enhanced role of Israel as a strategic ally of the US.
Attesting to Israel’s unique contribution to US strategic agenda, former Secretary of State, Al Haig, referred to Israel as the largest pro-US aircraft carrier, which doesn’t require US personnel, and can’t be sunk. Major General George Keegan, former Director of Air Force Intelligence added that Israel equals five CIAs in terms of intelligence-sharing and power projection.
The world view of the Bush Administration, and its order of strategic priorities, constitute a unique potential for the upgrading of Israel’s strategic alliance with the US. However, the realization of such a potential depends upon Israel turning the clock forward, once again becoming a role-model for counter-terrorism and steadfastness at any price, rather than (as it has been since the 1993 Oslo Process) a role model of vacillation in face of terrorism and concessions at any price.