The cornerstone of America’s security commitment to Israel, since the administration of Lyndon Johnson, has been an assurance that the United States would help Israel uphold its Qualitative Military Edge (QME). This is “Israel’s ability to counter and defeat credible military threats from any individual state, a coalition of states, or non-state actor, while sustaining minimal damages or casualties.” This commitment and the language were written into law in 2008 and every security assistance request from the Israeli Government is evaluated in light of America’s promise.
So, what happens when the United States agrees to sell the F-35 jet fighter – the most sophisticated plane in our arsenal – to the United Arab Emirates after UAE establishes relations with Israel? Is UAE permanently out of the group of “individual states or coalition of states” that QME refers to? Can other states get out?
U.S. support for Israel’s qualitative military edge and Israel’s security in the face of the Iranian threat does not counterbalance F-35s to UAE. So, have the Gulf States – and Saudi Arabia –disappeared from the “coalition of states” in the formulation “credible military threats from any individual state, a coalition of states, or non-state actor? We appear to be left with “any individual state” meaning Iran.
The U.S., Israel, the UAE, and other regional players agree that Iran is the threat today. How political and military changes in the region will affect the parties remains to be seen.
Listen to JPC Senior Director Shoshana Bryen on Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge in a webinar with Middle East Forum.