Home inFocus Israel: Beyond the Headlines (Spring 2016) U.S. Investment in – not Foreign Aid to – Israel

U.S. Investment in – not Foreign Aid to – Israel

Yoram Ettinger Spring 2016
An Israeli Air Force F-15D takes off during the Blue Flag exercise on Uvda Air Force Base, Israel, Nov. 26, 2013. (Photo: U.S. Department of Defense)

In 2016, Israel is a major contributor to – and a global co-leader with – the U.S. in the areas of research, development, manufacturing and launching of micro (100 kg), mini (300 kg) and medium (1,000 kg) sized satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), as well as joint space missions, space communications, and space exploration, sounding rocket and scientific balloon flights. According to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, “Israel is known for its innovation. The October 15, 2015 joint agreement gives us the opportunity to cooperate with Israel on the journey to Mars, [highlighting Israel’s extremely lightweight technologies, which conserve energy]….”

Israel is no longer a supplicant – as it was in its early years of independence – transformed from a net-national security and economic consumer to a net-national security and economic producer, generating substantial military and commercial dividends to the U.S., which exceed the highly appreciated $3.1 billion annual investment in Israel by the U.S.

The annual U.S. investment in Israel – erroneously defined as “foreign aid” (Foreign Military Financing) – has yielded one of the highest rates of return on U.S. investments overseas. But, Israel is neither “foreign” nor does it receive “aid.”

A Partnership

From a one-way street relationship, the U.S.-Israel connection has evolved into an exceptionally productive two- way mutually beneficial alliance. The U.S. is the senior partner, and Israel the junior partner, in a win-win, geo-strategic partnership, which transcends the 68-year-old tension between all American presidents (from Truman through Obama) and Israeli prime ministers (from Ben Gurion through Netanyahu) over the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian issue.

According to the former Supreme Commander of NATO forces and Secretary of State, the late General Alexander Haig: “Israel constitutes the largest U.S. aircraft carrier, which does not require a single U.S. boot on board, cannot be sunk, deployed in a most critical region to the U.S. economy and national security. And, if there were no Israel in the eastern flank of the Mediterranean, the U.S. would have to deploy to the region a few more real aircraft carriers and tens of thousands of troops, which would have cost the U.S. taxpayer some $15 billion annually. All of which is spared by the existence of Israel.”

Israel has been the most cost-effective, battle-tested laboratory of U.S. defense industries; the most reliable and practical beachhead/outpost of the U.S. defense forces; sharing with the U.S. unique intelligence, battle experience, and battle tactics. Thus, Israel extends the U.S. strategic hand at a time when the Pentagon is experiencing draconian cuts in its defense budget, curtailing the size of its military force and the global deployment of troops, while facing tough international industrial-defense competition and dramatically intensified threats of Islamic terrorism overseas and on the U.S. mainland.

Hardware, Software and Intelligence

For example, in 2016, Israel’s Air Force, which flies American-made aircraft, shares with the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. manufacturers of the F-16, F-15 and additional aircraft systems, real-time online, daily operational maintenance and repair lessons, derived from Israel’s daily battle experience. This upgrades U.S. national and homeland security, as well as enhancing research and development, global competitiveness, exports and the employment base of U.S. defense industries (e.g., Lockheed-Martin, McDonnell Douglas, Bell Helicopter, Boeing Defense, Northrop Grumman, etc.).

The plant manager of Fort Worth-based General Dynamics/Lockheed Martin, which manufactures the F-16, asserted that Israeli lessons have spared the manufacturer 10-20 years of research and development, leading to over 700 modifications in the current generation of the F-16, “valued at a mega-billion dollar bonanza to the manufacturer.”  One may conclude that St. Louis-based McDonnell Douglas, manufacturer of the F-15, benefits in the same manner. Similar lessons have been shared with the U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps and the U.S. manufacturers of tanks, armored personnel carriers, missile launchers, missiles, night navigation systems, and hundreds of additional military and homeland security systems, manufactured by the U.S. and utilized by Israel. For instance, the Northrup Grumman plant in Chattanooga, TN, that manufactures explosive-neutralizing robots, has increased its exports since Israel’s decision to employ its product, benefitting from weekly telephone conference calls with Israeli experts, who have shared their operational lessons. Israel is to the U.S. defense industry what a triple-A tenant is to a shopping mall – enhancing value and drawing clients.

According to Gen. George Keegan, a former U.S. Air Force Intelligence Chief, the value of intelligence shared by Israel with the U.S. – exposing the air capabilities of adversaries, their new military systems, electronics, and jamming devices – “could not be procured with five CIAs…. The ability of the U.S. Air Force in particular, and the Army in general, to defend whatever position it has in NATO, owes more to Israeli intelligence input than it does to any other single source of intelligence, be it satellite reconnaissance, be it technology intercept, or what have you.”  The late Senator Daniel Inouye, who was Chairman of the Intelligence and the Appropriations Committees, made a similar assessment: “Israel provides the U.S. with more intelligence than all NATO countries combined.” In July 2003, Brig. Gen. Michael Vane, Deputy Chief of Staff at the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command stated that Israel’s counter-terrorism experience shaped the U.S. war on terrorism.

Indeed, U.S. Special Operations units on their way to Iraq and Afghanistan are trained by Israeli experts in tackling suicide bombers, car bombs and the deadly Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). Upon arrival at the front, unmanned aerial vehicles Israel co-developed with the U.S. assist them. Moreover, an Israeli armor plating technology, installed on U.S. military vehicles minimizes American fatalities, and the innovative “Israeli bandage” is employed to stop severe bleeding of injured soldiers. U.S. bomb squads leverage Israel’s unique counter-terrorism experience, improving their explosives neutralizing capabilities abroad and on the U.S. mainland.

Israel has shared battle tactics and urban warfare experience, gained during wars against conventional Arab armies and Islamic/Palestinian terrorists.  In 2014, General (ret.) Chuck Krulak, former Commandant, USMC, stated: “The U.S. battle tactics formulation, at Fort Leavenworth, KS – the intellectual Mecca of the U.S. Army – is based on the Israeli book.”  In 1991, during the First Gulf War, General Krulak fought Russian tanks operated by Saddam Hussein, by applying the 1973 Israeli battle tactics against Soviet tanks employed by Egypt.

Historical Precedents

In November, 1952, following Israel’s 1948-49 War of Independence, General Omar Bradley, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, proposed to expand strategic cooperation with Israel, only to be rebuffed by the Department of State, which opposed the establishment of the Jewish State.

However, Israel has evolved into the most effective U.S. strategic beachhead/outpost in the Middle East and beyond, as demonstrated during the 1967 Six-Day-War, when Israel obliterated the Egyptian military, aborting the pro-Soviet Egyptian attempt to topple the pro-U.S. Arab oil-producing regimes, which would have devastated U.S. economic and military interests at a time of high dependency on Persian Gulf oil.  In 1969, Israel shared with the U.S. its own flare system, which diverted anti-aircraft heat-seeking missiles away from their targets, saving the lives of many gunship pilots during the Vietnam War.

In 1970, Israel’s power projection forced a rollback of the Soviet-backed Syrian invasion of pro-Western Jordan that aimed at toppling the Hashemite regime and then surging into Saudi Arabia, which would have triggered an anti-American geo-strategic avalanche.

Following Israel’s October 1973 War against the Soviet-armed Egypt and Syria, some 50 U.S. military experts, headed by General Donn Starry, spent six months studying Israel’s battle experience and tactics and the captured Soviet military systems, producing eight thick volumes, which tilted the global balance of power in favor of the U.S., upgraded the U.S. defense of Europe during the Cold War, enhanced the U.S. air and land battle doctrine during the 1991 Gulf War, and improved the global competitiveness of the U.S. defense industries.

In 1989, 1969, and 1966, Israel snatched a Soviet Mig-23, a most advanced P-12 Soviet early warning radar and ELINT (electronic signals intelligence) system, and a Soviet Mig-21 from Syria, Egypt and Iraq, respectively. All were transferred to the U.S., evaluated and integrated into the U.S. battle tactics, counter-measures and the defense industrial competitive edge, tilting the global balance of power again.

On July 4, 1976, Israel’s Entebbe hostage-rescue operation was a turning point in the battle against anti-American, pro-Soviet Islamic terrorism.  In 1981, in defiance of the U.S. Administration, Israel devastated Iraq’s nuclear reactor, sparing the U.S. a nuclear confrontation against Iraq in 1991, and snatching the pro-U.S. Saudis from the jaws of pro-Soviet Iraq.  In 1982, Israel destroyed twenty advanced Soviet surface-to-air missile (SAM) batteries, deployed in Lebanon/Syria and throughout the world, downing 89 Soviet Mig-21s, Mig-23s and Su-20s in the process. Israel proved that the most advanced mobile Soviet SAMs could be jammed, penetrated, and destroyed, promptly sharing the battle tactics and electronic warfare innovations with the U.S. Air Force and defense industrial base, providing the U.S. with a significant geo-strategic and industrial game-changing edge over Moscow. 

In Our Own Time

In 2007, Israel destroyed a Syrian-North Korean-Iranian nuclear plant, dealing a blow to global terrorism, sparing humanity the trauma of a nuclear-armed Asad in 2016.

In March, 2007, General John Craddock, the Supreme Commander of NATO, told the House Armed Services: “In the Middle East, Israel is the closest ally of the U.S., consistently supporting our interests through security cooperation.” Even CNN – which is generally critical of Israel – agreed that Israel’s war against Hamas terrorists advanced homeland security in pro-American Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States.

A June 2015 strategic agreement intensified cooperation between the air forces of both countries, establishing twelve teams of officers and codifying a widening range of joint annual agendas: operations, battle tactics, training, maintenance, repairs, airborne medicine, flight safety, etc., in the face of mutual threats, joint interests and constrained budgets.  American combat pilots benefit uniquely during joint drills with their Israeli colleagues, who always fly in a “do-or-die” state of mind – a result of Israel’s narrow geographic waistline – that stretches the capabilities of the aircraft to new dimensions and generates more daring and innovative maneuvers. Recently, Israel’s Air Force developed a groundbreaking method of identifying, repairing, and preempting cracks in old combat planes, such as the F-16, using ultrasound machines and promptly shared that information with the U.S. Air Force and manufacturer. Instead of grounding planes for six months and preoccupying hundreds of mechanics, the Israeli-developed system requires two weeks and only a few mechanics, yielding significant economic and national security benefits.

In 2016, against the backdrop of mounting conventional and terrorist threats, the proliferation of Islamic terrorist cells in the U.S., the collapse of Europe’s military power projection, the Islamization of Turkey’s national security policy, the erosion of the Western posture of deterrence, and the growing instability, fragmentation, unpredictability and doubtful reliability of pro-U.S. Arab regimes, Israel is the only stable, reliable, predictable, capable, democratic, and unconditional ally of the U.S. Israel constitutes a critical obstacle to the megalomaniacal, Islamic imperialism, enhancing the national and homeland security of the U.S. and its Arab allies. Unlike Europe, Israel is able and willing to flex its muscles.   

An Israel-like ally in the Persian Gulf might have dramatically reduced the U.S. military involvement in the Gulf and the Indian Ocean.

The raging, anti-American Arab Street, the melting, UN-minded European Street, the commercially and militarily innovative pro-American Israeli Street, and the intensifying threats to global sanity and the U.S. national and homeland security, all highlight Israel’s role as a special strategic partner to America – and not a member of the “foreign aid” club of supplicants – increasingly contributing to mutually-beneficial geo-strategic U.S.-Israel joint ventures. 

Yoram Ettinger served as Minister for Congressional Affairs at the Israeli Embassy in Washington and is a consultant to members of Israel’s Cabinet and Knesset.