The US-engineered and brokered Israel-Lebanon (Hezbollah) maritime/gas accord includes (in section 4) US guarantees. It aims to reassure both parties, especially Israel: “The United States intends to exert its best efforts working with the Parties to help establish and maintain a positive and constructive atmosphere for conducting discussions and successfully resolving any differences as rapidly as possible.”
Is that a reassuring commitment?
Section 4 of the maritime/gas accord is a classic example of four features of all US’ international guarantees, which – as logically expected – intend to subordinate the implementation of the guarantees to the interests of the US guarantor, not the interests of the guaranteed countries:
*For example, the NATO Treaty – led by the US – is perceived to be the tightest commitment by all member states to the defense of an attacked NATO country. However, article 5 of the NATO Charter highlights the aforementioned four features:
“The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them… will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area…. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.”
*Furthermore, the seeds of the current devastation of Ukraine were planted in the December 5, 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances accorded to Ukraine by the US, Britain and the USSR in return for Ukraine’s giving up its nuclear arsenal, which was the 3rd largest in the world.
According to the Budapest Memorandum: “Taking into account the commitment of Ukraine to eliminate all nuclear weapons from its territory within a specified period of time… the United States of America, the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine… to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine….”
The Budapest Memorandum was exposed as a useless and misleading “screen saver” in 2014, when Russia occupied the Crimean Peninsula. Its ineffective nature was further revealed during the 2014-2022 Russia-Ukraine war in Donbas and in 2022, when Russia – again – invaded and plundered Ukraine with no implementation of the Budapest Memorandum of Security Assurances.
*Israel should be aware of the intrinsic flaws of all security guarantees, and persist in reliance only upon its own national security capabilities, rather than the mirage of international/US assurances.
*Moreover, the US constitutional balance of power stipulates that no US international commitment is binding unless ratified by a 2/3 Senate majority.
Thus, in 1999 and 2000, President Clinton signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which prohibits international nuclear testing, and the Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court in the Hague. However, Clinton did not submit the Rome Statute for Senate ratification (realizing that there was no support for ratification), and the Test Ban Treaty was also not ratified – it was defeated 48:51 in the Senate. Both are yet to be ratified….
The open-ended nature of US guarantees, and the paramount role of US interests during the implementation phase, were demonstrated by the US defense treaties, which were concluded with Taiwan (1955), South Vietnam (1973) and New Zealand (1951), but terminated by the US in 1979, 1975 and 1986, in order to advance US interests, as perceived by US presidents at the time.
*Israeli reliance on US guarantees in the context of the 2022 maritime/gas accord ignores past mistakes:
*In 2000, President Clinton pledged $800mn in emergency aid to fund Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon. It was never delivered, since Congress – and not the President – possesses the Power of the Purse, and it did not agree to fund the self-defeating Israeli withdrawal (which triggered an unprecedented wave of Palestinian terrorism).
*In 1979 – when President Carter attempted to insert into the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty a reference to a future Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights – the Israeli team shared with Carter the September 1, 1975 assurance of President Ford to Prime Minister Rabin, required to induce an Israeli withdraw from the Gulf of Suez to the Mitla’ Pass in mid-Sinai: “… [The US] will give great weight to Israel’s position that any peace agreement with Syria must be predicated on Israel remaining on the Golan Heights.” President Carter’s correct response was that President Ford’s non-ratified executive commitment did not bind any of Ford’s successors in the White House.
*In 1967 – on the eve of the Six Day War – Israel shared with President Johnson well-documented evidence about the Egypt-Syria-Jordan planned war on Israel. Prime Minister Eshkol submitted to President Johnson the 1957 assurance (Aide Memoir) by President Eisenhower, which was a prerequisite for Israel’s withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula. It implied US willingness to deploy its military in the face of Egyptian violations of commitments made to the US and Israel. President Johnson responded that Eisenhower’s non-ratified Executive Commitment did not bind Eisenhower’s successors, and “it ain’t worth a solitary dime.” He added that “I am a tall Texan, but a short president in the face of a Congress that opposes overseas military deployment.”
The bottom line
*Security agreements with the US should enhance – not reduce – Israel’s posture of deterrence and its independence of national security action.
*Security agreements with the US should advance Israel’s posture as a national security producer – which deters regional violence – rather than a national security consumer, which fuels regional violence.
*Security agreements with the US should expand Israel’s posture as a unique force-multiplier for the US – a strategic asset, not a liability.
*The 2022 maritime/gas Israel-Lebanon (Hezbollah) accord suggests that US and Israeli policy-makers are determined to learn from history by repeating – rather than avoiding – past critical mistakes, undermining their own interests.