War talk on Iran forces the issue: Is Israel a formal US ally?
Obama and Netanyahu can't agree on a threshold for attacking Iran if they also lack clarity on whether the US and Israel are formal allies. Will Israel abandon its strategy of defense self-reliance?
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Last month, he reiterated a longstanding Israeli stance by saying, “When it comes to our fate, we must rely only on ourselves.” To many Jews, this view reflects the lesson of the Holocaust – that they cannot rely on others to save them. Yet Israel also knows it may not have the military means to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities unless the US is involved. And it could also lack the defensive capability to withstand an Iranian counterattack.Skip to next paragraph
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In 1981, Israel was able to destroy Iraq’s nuclear capability in an aerial attack, and in 2007, it destroyed a Syrian nuclear facility – both without US help. But it has also long relied on billions of dollars in US military aid as well as American military technology, such as missile defenses. The two militaries often hold joint exercises, and Israel is a “partner” in a NATO outreach program called Mediterranean Dialogue.
US and Israeli officials often refer to each other’s country as an “ally.” But the US also uses that term for many countries with whom it has no formal defense treaty. Ever since the 1930s, for example, the US has implicitly been an ally of Saudi Arabia’s monarchy in return for access to Saudi oil.
The lack of a defense treaty with Israel also makes it difficult for US relations with Turkey, which is an official NATO ally. Turkey, for example, is hosting a new NATO missile-defense shield designed to thwart Iranian missiles. But the Islamic government in Ankara also insists that the shield not be used to help Israel. NATO appears to be honoring the request.
REALTED: Five reasons to attack Iran
Finding a peaceful way to neutralize Iran’s nuclear threat requires that Israel and the US first bring greater clarity to their own relationship.
Is the US willing to shed its longtime attempt to be a mediator in Middle East problems by formally supporting Israel in a military attack? And is Israel ready to abandon its post-Holocaust desire for military self-reliance by becoming an official US ally?
Obama and Netanyahu will need to answer these questions, not only for each other, but for their own people.