On Independence Day, Former Defense Minister Says Israel Becoming More Independent Each Year
Moshe Arens, Israel’s former Defense Minister, said that with every year that passes, the State of Israel becomes more independent than the previous years. His comments were made in an interview with Israel’s Walla news on Wednesday.
Though he admitted that Israel – just like all other countries in the world – is not entirely independent, because of the increased interconnectedness of the world’s nations as a result of globalization, he said that, “When I look at Israel in 2015 and compare it to the State of Israel when I served in senior positions in public service, I have no doubt that we have become more independent.” Arens added that Israel is “stronger militarily” than it was in the past, and therefore “less dependent on external security assistance.”
Despite emphasizing Israel’s increased independence, Arens had no illusions about the country’s dependence on the global community, particularly its relationship with the United States. He said, “this does not mean that we have achieved total independence – aid from the United States is still very important.” However, he added that, “there was a time when without American aid, which amounts to some $3 billion a year, it would have been very difficult to keep up the defense budget.” By contrast, now, “if for some reason this aid would stop – which I do not think will happen – Israel would be hurt, but it would be able to bear it.”
Arens also noted that, almost counterintuitively, “aid received over the years has made us more independent,” because it allowed Israel to “create infrastructure that allows us to continue towards increased independence in more and more domains.”
He did note his regret that Israel had chosen to cancel the Lavi project – a late 1980’s plan by Israel Aircraft Industries to develop a 4th generation multirole fighter that would have replaced Israel’s use of American aircraft. Arens’ regret comes from the fact that, “regarding fighter jets, we still have a certain degree of dependency on the United States, even though it’s shrinking.”
He added, however, that even when it came to the Lavi, “the Americans gave us, at the time, assistance to the tune of a quarter billion dollars, for the specific purpose of developing the aircraft, despite the fact that it would reduce our dependence on them in this area.”
Arens – who also served as Israel’s ambassador to Washington – believes that Israel can eventually reduce it military dependence on the United States. “I’m all for reducing aid because, alongside its important contributions to us, it also has negative side-effects. Aid comes with a preference for purchasing weapons systems from the United States, when there are often alternative Israeli products that we do not buy because of the commitments we have made to the Americans. So, in this sense, with all of the positives of the assistance, it also has negative side-effects.”