I often hear from pro-Israel Democrats arguing that, for all his faults, President Obama gets a passing grade on Israel become of our military-to-military cooperation. They somehow believe the only thing that “really” matters is the hardware.
Michael Singh of the Washington Institute effectively rebuts this argument: “That the military-to-military relationship is strong is not in dispute -- it has been growing broader and deeper for many years, and the Obama Administration has maintained this trajectory. That the strength of this relationship attests to the good health of the U.S.-Israel alliance, however, is questionable.” That, Singh argues, is because that military assistance is in large part “vital to American security and prosperity. Our assistance not only protects Israel, but also provides for our common defense against threats such as Iran’s nuclear and missile program and transnational terrorist group.” Moreover, it ignores the deeper relationship between two historic allies that is based on shared values and geopolitical objectives.
Singh is correct that Israel’s security, especially in an era in which the Palestinians have turned to courts and diplomatic maneuvers to attack Israel, “requires a good political relationship.” He explains:
A more patient and nuanced approach views our security relationship with Israel -- and indeed our regional security efforts -- and advancing the peace process as mutually reinforcing. The reasons are simple: first, an Israel both consumed with external threats and worried about the reliability of U.S. backing is one which will hunker down, not take risks for peace; second, to the extent Israel and its neighbors are focused on similar threats, such as Iran and terrorism, our efforts to counter those threats can serve as a rare point of cooperation, even if implicit, among them and improve the regional political atmosphere. . . .
We should not allow [differences] to define the relationship, much less highlight them in the vain hope of winning the esteem of Israel’s foes.
Indeed, the current threat to Israel that is absorbing the attention of both countries has little to do with immediate military threats from the Palestinians. It flows from the peril in which Israel finds itself because Obama diplomatically distanced the United States from Israel and encouraged Palestinian objectives that were not attainable. He can’t very well say, “But look at the bunker-buster missiles!” It’s apples and oranges. The damage done by Obama’s flawed policy and rhetoric is not corrected by military cooperation, no matter how robust.
Frankly, it is embarrassing to suggest that the measure of the U.S.-Israel relationship is measured by missiles and technology, no matter how helpful those things may be. Only a president lacking in heartfelt affection for the Jewish state and historical perspective would make that claim.