Home inSight U.S.-Israel: A Common Understanding

U.S.-Israel: A Common Understanding

Shoshana Bryen
Former U.S. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talks with IDF soldiers in Israel on Oct 30, 2012. (Photo: Pentagon)

Notes from a speech given by Shoshana Bryen at the American Zionist Movement Conference November 2017, Washington, DC

This panel is supposed to talk about Israel in Washington – I’m going to stretch the boundaries a little and talk about Israel in Virginia. In the Pentagon, to be precise. One of the few points of – I think -unbounded bipartisan agreement in Washington is that US-Israel security cooperation is right, good, mutually beneficial and worth every nickel we spend on it.

But I’m not sure we always understand why that’s true. And this is the Zionist part. In a recent speech, Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks talked about the Jewish people’s demand of the prophet Samuel to have a King. God told Samuel to explain what having a king would mean, and if the Israelites still wanted one, to give them one.

Rabbi Sacks explained:

What happened in the days of the Prophet Samuel is a social contract, exactly on the lines set out by Thomas Hobbes in “The Leviathan.” People are willing to give up certain of their rights, transfer them to a central power, a king, a government, who undertakes to ensure the rule of law internally and the defense of the realm externally.

In fact, One Samuel, Chapter Eight is the first recorded instance in all of history of a social contract.

But what makes the Hebrew Bible unique… and makes it completely different from Hobbes and Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau is that this wasn’t the first founding moment of Israel as a nation, as a political entity. That took place at Mount Sinai when the people made with God not a contract but a covenant. And those two things are often confused, but actually they’re quite different.

In a contract, two or more people come together to make an exchange… which is to the benefit of the self-interest of each.

A covenant isn’t like that. It’s more like a marriage than an exchange… A covenant isn’t about me, the voter, or me, the consumer, but about all of us together. Or in that lovely key phrase of American politics, it’s about “We, the people.”

Biblical Israel had a society long before it had a state… And there is only one nation known to me that had the same dual founding as biblical Israel, and that is the United States of America which has its social covenant in the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and its social contract in the Constitution in 1787.

Covenant is central to the Mayflower Compact of 1620. It is central to the speech of John Winthrop aboard the Arbela in 1630. It is presupposed in the most famous line of the Declaration of Independence… “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.”

They are self-evident only to people who have internalized the Hebrew Bible.

End, Rabbi Sacks.

That is the center of America’s security relationship with Israel – the notion that our two countries have the same founding principles, the same respect for the social contract and for the social covenant. I have taken more than 400 American security professionals – primarily retired American Admirals and Generals – to Israel in more than 30 trips. And at the other end of their careers, I have sent more than 500 cadets and midshipmen of our service academies to Israel before they received their commissions. And I can say that they all understood the fundamental and profound principles that guide both the United States and Israel.

They don’t always agree with Israel’s politics – or Israel’s defense choices – or any other single aspect of Israeli political, military and social life, but I never found one that didn’t believe in the relationship between Jews and the land of Israel.

The United States military, then, is a Zionist institution.

Starting there – and you have to start there – you quickly reach the practical aspects of our partnership. Those haven’t changed since 1979, when I first published a “quick reference guide” to security cooperation.

Israel brings to the party:

  • A secure location in a crucial part of the world
  • A well-developed military infrastructure
  • The ability to maintain, service, and repair U.S.-origin equipment
  • An excellent deep-water port in Haifa
  • Modern air facilities
  • A position close to sea-lanes and ability to project power over long distances
  • A domestic air force larger than many in Western Europe and possessing more up-to-date hardware
  • Multilingual capabilities, including facility in English, Arabic, French, Farsi and the languages of the (former) Soviet Union
  • Combat familiarity with Soviet/Russian style tactics and equipment
  • The ability to assist U.S. naval fleets, including common equipment
  • The ability to support American operations and to provide emergency air cover
  • A democratic political system with a strong orientation to support the United States and the NATO system.

In 1996, I noted that Israel’s military R&D capabilities complement those of the U.S.; its intelligence services cooperate closely with ours – to our benefit; and large numbers of American troops train in Israel.

In 2006, I added the establishment of police-to-police counterterrorism training in Israel. Can you imagine the American police learning tactics from Saudi Arabia, China or Venezuela?

In 1967, in the War of Attrition, in 1973, and over Lebanon in 1982, Israel fought pro-Soviet forces and provided intelligence information and Russian equipment to the U.S.  Most of the equipment had never been inspected close-up by American troops that then expected to face them in battle.

It was the aftermath of the 73 war that led to the American “combined arms doctrine” that was so successfully deployed in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1990/1991.

In 1981, Israel’s bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak meant the US knew it wouldn’t be facing a nuclear-armed Iraq in 1991.

After 9-11, Israel “opened the closets” for the US, supplying battle-tested experience in combating terrorism and urban warfare. Americans benefitted from Israel’s tactics against car bombs, IEDs and homicide bombing.

After the 2003 allied invasion of Iraq, American military personnel were being introduced to Israel’s bomb-sniffing dogs. The U.S. wanted such dogs, but the training period is fairly long. The IDF was willing to make Israeli dogs available, but they only took commands in Hebrew. It was quicker to train the Marines than retrain the dogs, making some interesting scenes in Baghdad

In September 2007, the IAF destroyed a Syrian-North Korean nuclear plant, extending the US’s strategic arm and providing vital information on Russian air defense systems, which are also employed by Iran.

Not a single American serviceperson needs to be stationed in Israel. Aside from training missions, there have been American soldiers stationed in Israel since 2009, working with the US-Israeli co-designed X-band radar system – a deployment that helps the US and Israel monitor threats from the east.

And, as a reminder, Israel’s missile defense capabilities – developed and produced in conjunction with American industry – not only protect Israel from Hamas and Hezbollah missiles, but protect the United States from emerging threats from North Korea and Iran.

After the 2014 Gaza War, where Israel was roundly criticized by the American administration for allegedly not taking proper precautions to limit Palestinian civilian casualties, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey said,

“Israel… did some extraordinary things to try to limit civilian casualties, to include… making it known that they were going to destroy a particular structure. The IDF,” Dempsey said, “is not interested in creating civilian casualties. They’re interested in stopping the shooting of rockets and missiles out of the Gaza Strip and into Israel.” He surprised his audience – the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs – by telling them he had already sent an American delegation to Israel to learn lessons from the IDF, “including,” he said, “the measures they took to prevent civilian casualties.”

Israel has been a partner in US and multi-lateral military exercises for years – interestingly, most recently there was an exercise in which Israel and the UAE flew together, signaling a change in Israel’s relations with Gulf countries.

Right now, Israel is hosting the largest aerial training exercise in its history – Blue Flag, in the Negev Desert. 70 foreign aircraft from around the world, hundreds of pilots and air support team members. Participants include the United States, France, Italy, Greece, Poland, Germany, and India. It is the first time French, German and Indian contingents have trained in Israel.

And if you thought you would ever see the Luftwaffe flying in Israel, you have a better imagination than I do.


Israel and the United States are drawn together by common values and common threats to our well-being. The bipartisan support of our ally Israel is a testament to those values as well as to the practical recognition that the threats require cooperation in intelligence, technology and security policy.

We have that with Israel. But more than that, the United States and Israel share an intimate understanding of nationhood. The British – our other best friend in the world –  can’t say that rights are inalienable and come from The Creator. For the British, rights came from the earthly King or Queen, and only those rights the sovereign choses to give – which is why we had a Revolution.

  • Cal2

    This is such worn out zio cult propaganda its not even worth debunking.

  • Paul E. Merrell, J.D.

    “‘…the most famous line of the Declaration of Independence… “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.'” … “That is the center of America’s security relationship with Israel – the notion that our two countries have the same founding principles …”

    And there we part. The U.S. is firmly dedicated to the principle of Equal Rights under the law. Israel, on the other hand, is an apartheid state holding that its Jews have rights superior to its Arabs and that it is permissible to hold the citizens of the State of Palestine in abject military captivity.

    Until that difference is rectified, U.S. abandonment of the State of Israel as constituted is unavoidable and well-deserved.

    • plumplum

      Thank You.

    • RP

      This x1000.

    • Aer O’Head

      NEITHER Israel nor the U.S. is interested in any so-called principle of equality.

  • plumplum

    “The United States military, then, is a Zionist institution.”
    There we have it.
    Clearly the writer is infused with immeasurable hubris to actually write down what many many of us have suspected for as long as it was obvious that Zionist interests had a squirrel grip on Congresses’ collective nuts.
    But thanks anyway. Perhaps this will help The Force to push back against The Dark Side.
    On another point, other experiences that Zionist experts can bring to the table.
    1) Ruthless policing, often leading to the murder by shooting, of unarmed civilians.
    2) How to dress up in aggressive gear to impose fear upon, again, unarmed civilians.
    3) How to lock up and torture said unarmed, usually innocent civilians.
    4) How to lie through collective teeth when exposed.

  • Joe Fletcher

    It is good that internalizing the Hebrew bible has made us spiritual brothers-maybe now we can help you internalize the Jesus New Testament-you know ,turn the other cheek,not eye for an eye-or was that meant only for other than yourselves?

    • RP

      Or let’s all become secular humanists who don’t need the threat of eternal punishment from an invisible bogeyman to keep us from being awful to each other. You know, *ADULTS*.

      • Joe Fletcher

        So you believe secular humanists fall on the “turn the other cheek” side of the spectrum or an”eye for an eye”-because regardless of religion or philosophy that was the distinction I was trying to draw.After all the approach to politics in the Middle east is apparently shaped by one of these philosophies,and you are clever enough to know which one-hint bronze age philosophy that fancies itself the epitome of humane

  • Craig

    It’s a nice conclusion but contradicts the central premise. Wouldn’t one say that American’s rights are derived from the constitution, or the British Magna Carta. God has nothing to do with it? The language explicitly avoids belief specific references. In other words, you have it exactly backwards. But it’s good you realize how distorted America’s foreign policy has become from this contortionist thought.

    • RP

      God is Man’s invention. Rights come from people standing on barricades and killing tyrants, not your bronze-age myths. You do disservice to everyone who has died fighting tyranny with your ignorant comment.

  • hipocampelofantocame

    This is a crap article. The Jews have caused a lot of trouble over the years in the
    world, and they’re still at it, in a very uni-focal sense. The fact that American
    government officials are so easily bribed, with American money, makes this a
    field day for imposing politics. Look at what goes on, and you may feel ill.

  • LeseMajeste

    Still trying to justify all the $$$ Israel extorts from their, sorry, our lapdog Congress each year and sends to support Apartheidism?

    Before the USSR collapsed, we were told Israel was needed because they were like a land-based aircraft carrier America could always count on. Like counting on Israel to savagely attack the USS Liberty in order to draw America into another of Israel’s land grabs.

    You might have many American Jews and some Americans lapping up your Zionist brainwashing, but many are seeing thru Israel’s toxic ideology, brutal repressions of Palestinians and their never-ending thirst to steal land and water from Syria, Lebanon and the West Bank. And setting off incidents that are amplified by your MSM into cheerleading for endless ME wars, fought by America for the glory of Apartheid Israel.

    Israel needs the USA to stay alive. The USA DOES NOT need Israel to stay alive, in facts, we’d be much better off without Israel’s fangs stuck in our neck, steadily leeching out precious wealth and blood.

  • Baadmoon

    The smartest, most patriotic American to ever wear the uniform, Gen. George C. (Marshall Plan) Marshall, said it best when he told Truman, on May 12, 1948: “They don’t deserve a state, Mr. President. If you do this (sanction Israel) and I were to vote in the next election, I would not vote for you.” Truman backed down in that famous meeting but chickened out 2 days later, took the $2-million ZOA bribe and sold out his country. Marshall resigned and it’s been downhill for U.S. foreign policy ever since. (although Marshall did return as SecDef to save us from defeat in the Korean War)

  • Aer O’Head

    Get real. The common theme is colonialism and imperialism.

  • Pat Enery

    When this author speaks of our 2 nations having a dual founding, he is speaking historically of ancient Israel. The Israel of today has no Biblical precedent. Aren’t the so called Jews but of one tribe of 12? Then there is the question of a genetic & unbroken lineage. Or the fact that the so called Jews under the Babylonian Captivity were heavily influenced by the pagan practices of their captors. The aberration known today as Israel has its founding in the Babylonian Talmud & not the Torah. Jesus himself called them out for what they really were. The Synagogue of Satan. Their actions toward the Gentile world since their beginnings shows who they really are. Isn’t that why they have been kicked out of over 100 countries from then till now? Look at how they deal with Palestine. Look at how they have dealt with the U.S. 911, the bombing of the U.S.S. Liberty, the greatest spying & stealing of our technology, the control of our Media, & the control of all the world’s economies by their usurious central banking system. I do not have the time to list all their crimes against us. Research while you can. Their censoring has increased for this very reason.

  • Robin Morritt

    Free holiday for me too, please.
    I promise not to argue about the deals with supernatural entities gibberish.

  • RP

    Hello Craig – after re-reading your comment I realize you probably did not mean to put a question mark after “God has nothing to do with it”, but rather make it a declarative sentence, putting us in agreement. Comment rescinded.

    • Craig

      Well, I think it is ill advised to make any comment that references ‘God’ declarative. So, I did mean it, but your point is well taken.