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US Security Commitments – Intentional Ambiguity

US commitments to the security of Israel should enhance – not constrain – Israel’s independence of action.  US commitments to the security of Israel should upgrade Israel’s role as a national security producer for the US – a major strategic ally. They should not relegate Israel to a national security-consumer – a client state.

Allowing US security commitments to supersede Israel’s independence of action could subject Israel to lethal cost, as experienced in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.  Then Prime Minister Golda Meir was overly concerned about the White House attitude towards Israel. Therefore, she refrained from preempting the Egypt-Syria military assault, thus afflicting Israel with near destruction – a trauma that still haunts the Jewish State.

Preferring US security commitments over Israel’s independence of action, would deny the US major strategic benefits such as the destruction of Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981. Israel’s defiant unilateral action relieved Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other pro-US Gulf States from the deadly Saddam-threat. It spared the US a nuclear confrontation with Iraq in 1991.  

Subordinating Israel’s independence of action to US security commitments would ignore recent lessons; would disregard the inherent limitations to US security commitments; and could lead to Israel’s erosion of sovereignty and posture of deterrence and to its eventual destruction.

For example, in 1954, the US and Taiwan signed a mutual defense pact, which was ratified by the US Senate.  However, on December 15, 1978, President Carter announced that the treaty would be terminated, unilaterally by the US, on January 1, 1980.  Carter was not challenged by the Senate. In 1973, the US signed the Paris Peace Accord with South Vietnam and North Vietnam.  However, in 1975, the US refused to assist the collapsing South Vietnamese, thus dooming South Vietnam to oblivion.

Once again it was demonstrated that US interests outplay international considerations; that US international commitments are intentionally ambiguous; that they are non-specific and non-automatic; that the US constitution facilitates unilateral reneging on – and nullification of – overseas commitments; and that US compliance with international commitments is at its sole discretion, a function of unpredictable global, regional and domestic interests.   

According to international law, international commitments and agreements are legally binding.  However, the US subordinates international commitments to the unique features of the US Constitution: separation of powers, checks and balances and the co-determining power of the Legislature. For instance, the Senate is concerned that automatic adherence to international law could inflate the power of the Executive. 

Therefore, treaties concluded by US Presidents are not binding unless ratified by two thirds of the Senate. For example, the Senate rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which was signed by President Clinton in 1999. Moreover, executive agreements with foreign countries which are negotiated by presidents, hardly bind the sitting president and certainly not his successors.

From 1950 to 1955, the US promised Israel military systems to deter an Arab offensive. Failure to deliver emboldened Arab terrorism, which led to the 1956 Sinai Campaign. 

On February 27, 1957, Israel’s Eban and the US’ Dulles reached an understanding on Israel’s withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula, including Sharm al-Sheikh, if Israeli passage through the Straits of Tiran was assured. Jerusalem interpreted the understanding as a US commitment to use force to keep the Straits open.  However, Washington’s interpretation was that it did not have the right to use force to protect vessels of other flags, which would require Congressional action.

In May, 1967, Egypt blockaded the Straits of Tiran, deployed its military toward Israel and formed a unified command with Syria and Jordan, proclaiming its intent to annihilate Israel.  Israel requested US compliance with the 1957 understanding.  But, “US intelligence did not expect imminent Arab attack” and President Johnson preferred a multilateral UN-led action, which was not realistic.  

President Johnson “emphasized the necessity for Israel not to make itself responsible for the initiation of hostilities. Israel will not be alone unless it decides to go alone.”  Secretary of State, Rusk, stated that “if Israel strikes first, it would have to forget the U.S….. Defense Secretary McNamara said that the Israelis would stand alone if they initiated an attack.”  The US non-compliance further radicalized Egypt, forcing Israeli preemption – the 1967 Six Day War.

In 1970, the US made a commitment to oppose the deployment of Egyptian missiles towards Sinai.  The missiles were deployed, the US reneged and the 1973 war erupted, causing 2,800 Israeli fatalities.

In 1991, Israel agreed to forgo retaliation to Iraqi missile launching. The US promised to dedicate 30% of its air force bombing to missile launchers.  However, only 3% was dedicated and no missile launchers were hit.

Israel’s abdication of its inalienable independence of military preemption would amount to learning from history by repeating – and not by avoiding – critical mistakes.









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Open letter to Prime Minister Bennett ahead of visit to USA

(Hebrew edition in “Israel Hayom,” Israel’s largest circulation daily)

During your first official visit to Washington, DC, you’ll have to choose between two options:

*Blurring your deeply-rooted, assertive Israeli positions on the future of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), which would be welcome by the Biden Administration, yielding to short-term political convenience and popularity inside the beltway;


*Tenaciously advocating your deeply-rooted, principle-driven positions, which would underscore a profound disagreement with the Biden Administration and the “elite” US media, while granting you and Israel long-term strategic respect, as demonstrated by some of your predecessors.

For example, the late Prime Minister Shamir honed the second option, bluntly introduced his assertive Israeli positions on Judea and Samaria, rebuffed heavy US pressure – including a mudslinging campaign by President Bush and Secretary of State Baker – suffered a popularity setback, but produced unprecedented expansion of US-Israel strategic cooperation. When it comes to facing the intensified threats of rogue regimes and Islamic terrorism, the US prefers principle-driven, reliable, patriotic, pressure-defying partners, irrespective of disagreements on the Palestinian issue.

Assuming that you shall not budge on the historical and national security centrality of Judea and Samaria, it behooves you to highlight the following matters during your meetings with President Biden, Secretary of State Blinken, National Security Advisor Sullivan, Secretary of Defense Austin and Congressional leaders (especially the members of the Appropriations Committees):

  1. The 1,400-year-old track record of the stormy, unpredictable, violent and anti-“infidel” Middle East, which has yet to experience intra-Arab peaceful-coexistence, along with the 100-year-old Palestinian track record (including the systematic collaboration with anti-US entities, hate-education and anti-Arab and anti-Jewish terrorism) demonstrates that the proposed Palestinian state would be a Mini-Afghanistan or a Mega-Gaza on the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria.

It would dominate 80% of Israel’s population and infrastructures in the 9-15-mile sliver between Judea and Samaria and the Mediterranean, which is shorter than the distance between RFK Stadium and the Kennedy Center.

Thus, a Palestinian state would pose a clear and present existential threat to Israel; and therefore, Israel’s control of the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria is a prerequisite for its survival.

  1. The proposed Palestinian state would undermine US interests, as concluded from the Palestinian intra-Arab track record, which has transformed the Palestinians into a role-model of intra-Arab subversion, terrorism and ingratitude. Arabs are aware that a Palestinian state would add fuel to the Middle East fire, teaming up with their enemies (e.g., Iran’s Ayatollahs, the Muslim Brotherhood and Turkey’s Erdogan) and providing a strategic foothold to Russia and China. Consequently, Arabs shower Palestinians with favorable talk, but with cold and negative walk.

Hence, during the October, 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty ceremony, Jordan’s military leaders asserted to their Israeli colleagues that a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River would doom the pro-US Hashemite regime east of the River, and lead, subsequently, to the toppling of all pro-US Arab Peninsula regimes.

  1. There is no foundation for the contention that Israel’s retreat from the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria – which are the cradle of Jewish history, religion and culture – is required in order to sustain Israel’s Jewish majority. In reality, there is unprecedented Jewish demographic momentum, while Arab demography – throughout the Middle East – has Westernized dramatically. The Jewish majority in the combined area of Judea, Samaria and pre-1967 Israel benefits from a robust tailwind of fertility and migration.
  2. Israel’s control of the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria and the Golan Heights, bolsters its posture of deterrence, which has daunted rogue regimes, reduced regional instability, enhanced the national security of all pro-US Arab regimes, and has advanced Israel’s role as a unique force-multiplier for the US. An Israeli retreat from Judea and Samaria would transform Israel from a strategic asset – to a strategic liability – for the US.
  3. As the US reduces its military presence in the Middle East – which is a global epicenter of oil production, global trade (Asia-Africa), international Islamic terrorism and proliferation of non-conventional military technologies – Israel’s posture of deterrence becomes increasingly critical for the pro-US Arab countries (e.g., Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Jordan), who consider Israel to be the most reliable “life insurance agent” in the region.

Contrary to NATO, South Korea and Japan, Israel’s defense does not require the presence of US troops on its soil.

  1. Sustaining Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge is a mutual interest for the US and Israel, which serves as the most cost-effective battle-tested laboratory for the US defense industries and armed forces. Thus, Israel’s use of hundreds of US military systems has yielded thousands of lessons (operation, maintenance and repairs), which have been integrated, by the US manufacturers, into the next generation of the military systems, saving the US many years of research and development, increasing US exports and expanding the US employment base – a mega billion dollar bonanza for the US. At the same time, the US armed forces have benefitted from Israel’s military intelligence and battle experience, as well as joint training maneuvers with Israel’s defense forces, which has improved the US formulation of battle tactics.

Prime Minister Bennett, your visit to Washington, is an opportunity to demonstrate your adherence to your deeply-rooted strong Israeli positions, rejecting the ill-advised appeals and temptations to sacrifice Israel’s national security on the altar of convenience and popularity.

Yours truly,

Yoram Ettinger, expert on US-Israel relations and Middle East affairs

Support Appreciated







The post-1967 turning point of US-Israel cooperation

Israeli benefits to the US taxpayer exceed US foreign aid to Israel

Iran - A Clear And Present Danger To The USA

Exposing the myth of the Arab demographic time bomb