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October 29, 2020 7:05 am

The Benefits of Maintaining Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge

avatar by Yoram Ettinger

Opinion

Israeli F-35 fighter jets are seen off the wing of a US Air Force refueling tanker, Oct. 12, 2020. Photo: US Air Force.

The reinforcement of Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME) by the United States bolsters the Jewish state’s national security while enhancing America’s own geostrategic interests.

For example:

  • Israel’s QME has extended the strategic reach of the United States without putting US soldiers in harm’s way. The Jewish state serves as the most cost-effective, battle-experienced, reliable, and democratic force-multiplier — as a US outpost in the inherently explosive geo-strategic junction of Europe, Asia, and Africa, between the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Persia Gulf.
  • Israel’s QME has elevated its efficiency as the most cost-effective, battle-tested, and trustworthy laboratory for the US armed forces, and providing US defense industries with unique lessons (operation, maintenance, and repair), which have been integrated as upgrades, sparing many years of research and development, increasing US exports, and expanding US employment.
  • Israel’s QME has improved its potential to circumvent the regional and global maneuverability of rogue Middle East regimes and organizations (e.g., Iran’s ayatollahs, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Hezbollah), which have served as epicenters of the global proliferation of Islamic terrorism, conventional and non-conventional military systems, and drug trafficking from Central Asia through the Middle East, and Africa to South and Central America.
  • Israel’s QME has boosted its posture of deterrence in the face of a multitude of rogue regimes and organizations, thus reducing the threat of regional war — which could expand globally — while enticing moderate Arab regimes to seek peace with the Jewish state.
  • Israel’s QME provides for swift and decisive military victories, with fewer fatalities, which diminishes the potential of global involvement.
  • Israel’s QME facilitates a gradual US military withdrawal from the Middle East while leveraging Israel’s bolstered posture of deterrence to curtail regional instability, which has the potential to expand globally.

The geostrategic benefits to the United States resulting from Israel’s QME, along with Israel’s positive stature in the United States in general and on Capitol Hill in particular, yielded legislation (the 1992-1993 Foreign Relations Authorization Act), which required an annual presidential report on all sales of military systems — by any country — to Middle Eastern countries, and the resulting impact on the Israel-Arab military balance.

Congressional support for Israel’s QME was reinforced in 2008 (H.R. 7177, title II, led by then-Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Howard Berman):

The term Qualitative Military Edge means the ability to counter and defeat any credible conventional military threat from any individual state or possible coalition of states, or from non-state actors, while sustaining minimal damages and casualties, through the use of superior military means, possessed in sufficient quantity, including weapons, command, control, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities that in their technical characteristics are superior in capability to those of such other individuals or possible coalition of states or non-state actors. …

Any certification relating to a proposed sale of defense articles, or defense services, to any country in the Middle East, other than Israel, shall include a determination that the sale or export of the defense articles or defense services will not adversely affect Israel’s qualitative military edge over military threats to Israel. …

The President shall carry out an empirical and qualitative assessment on an ongoing basis of the extent to which Israel possesses a qualitative military edge over military threats to Israel.

Compliance with US law — as legislated by Congress — enhances Israel’s posture of deterrence, thus advancing major US geostrategic goals without the need to deploy additional military personnel.

On the other hand, a departure from the US law would erode Israel’s posture of deterrence, denying the US major benefits and thus undermining major geostrategic goals.

However, compliance with the US law depends on interpretation and implementation by the US Congress and administration, which in turn is determined by their respective worldviews. Are Iran’s ayatollahs a leading threat or a partner? Is Middle East turbulence seen as an “Arab Spring” or recognized as an “Arab Tsunami”? Is Islamic terrorism a major global threat, or mere “workplace violence”?

For instance, how does one interpret the following language of the aforementioned 2008 legislation:[Israel’s] ability to counter and defeat any credible conventional military threat”?

How does one assess “minimal damages and casualties,” “sufficient quantity,” ” superior in capability,” “adversely affect Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge over military threats to Israel”?

The language of the law is open to different interpretations and assessments, a byproduct of a subjective worldview, and therefore cannot be perceived by Israel as a cornerstone of its national security.

Furthermore, the military high-tech of today is destined to become the low-tech of tomorrow, superseded by more advanced military systems, some of which may be supplied to anti-Israel countries by Russia, China, and Europe, undetected by US and Israeli intelligence, as evidenced by pre-1973 Soviet military supplies to Egypt and Syria.

On the other hand, the high-ground of the mountain ridges of the Golan Heights and Judea and Samaria will always remain high ground, overpowering the region and providing Israel with minimal strategic depth and early-warning time to deploy its reservists, which constitute 75% of its military.

Therefore, no QME can replace the critical role played by the Golan Heights and the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria in securing Israel’s survival in the violently unpredictable, shifty Middle East with its tenuous regimes, policies, and accords.

Yoram Ettinger is a former ambassador and head of Second Thought: A U.S.-Israel Initiative.

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