Maintaining Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (excerpt)
(Source: US State Department; issued Nov. 4, 2011)
Excerpt from remarks by Andrew J. Shapiro,
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs,
To the Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Washington, DC
November 4, 2011


Preserving Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge is therefore a multi-faceted endeavor that includes more than just security assistance or ensuring that Israel has access to technologically advanced defense systems. It also involves building operational capability through exercises, training, and personnel exchanges. It involves a close bilateral relationship with constant consultations. It includes taking Israel’s QME into consideration when conducting defense cooperation with other countries in the region. And lastly it involves maintaining and strengthening our very close ties with countries throughout the region.

But let me be clear on this point: the changes that are impacting the region are prompting us to redouble our commitment to Israel’s security. This is why this Administration is not only sustaining and building upon practices established by prior administrations, but we are also undertaking new initiatives to make our security relationship more intimate than ever before.

In this light, we are taking steps to help Israel better defend itself from the threat of rockets from Hezbollah and Hamas. This is a very real daily concern for ordinary Israelis living in border towns such as Sderot, who know that a rocket fired from Gaza may come crashing down at any moment. Recently, the rockets from Gaza were fired toward Ashdod and Ashkelon. As a Senator, President Obama travelled to Israel and met with families whose homes had been destroyed by rockets. So the President understands this threat. Secretary Clinton understands it. And I understand it, having visited the border with Gaza as well.

That is why last year, the President asked Congress to authorize $205 million to support the production of an Israeli-developed short range rocket defense system called Iron Dome. The funding for Iron Dome is above and beyond the $3 billion in Foreign Military Financing we provide. Iron Dome is part of a comprehensive layered defense against the threat of short range rockets fired at the Israeli population. Our funding enables Israel to expand and accelerate Iron Dome production and deployment and improve its multi-tiered defense against short-range rockets. This system is proving its worth. Having deployed several Iron Dome units to protect areas in southern Israel, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak noted that Iron Dome was showing “exceptional” results.

As National Security Advisor Tom Donilon said in a speech to the Washington Institute just a few months ago: “We are proud to stand by this project. It is imperative that we do so, because there can be no peace without security.” Helping to make Israel's population more secure from the short range rocket and missile threat its border towns face is not only the right thing to do, but it is the type of strategic step that is good for Israel’s security and for the United States’ interests in the region. Our support for Iron Dome and similar efforts help provide Israel with the capabilities and the confidence that it needs to take the tough decisions ahead for a comprehensive peace.

Additionally, we are working to better protect Israel from the threat of short and medium-range missiles. We are enhancing Israel’s Arrow Weapon System to counter long-range ballistic missile threats by co-developing the Arrow-3 interceptor. We are upgrading Israel’s Patriot Air and Missile Defense System, which was first deployed during the 1991 Gulf War. And we have also deployed an advanced radar system to provide Israel early warning of incoming missiles. Furthermore, David’s Sling, a system developed to defend against short-range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, was developed jointly by Israeli and American companies.

Another way we help ensure Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge is through joint military exercises and training. Last fall we conducted the ballistic missile defense exercise: JUNIPER COBRA 2010. More than 1,000 U.S. troops participated in JUNIPER COBRA, making it the largest U.S.-Israeli military exercise in history. However, that accolade won’t last long. Because next year, we will combine the U.S. European Command’s premiere annual exercise, Austere Challenge, with the annual iteration of the Juniper Cobra exercise. This will involve more than 5,000 U.S and Israeli forces simulating the ballistic missile defense of Israel, making it by far the largest and the most significant exercise in U.S.-Israeli history. U.S. and Israeli forces also take part in numerous exercises throughout the year in order to test operational concepts, improve interoperability, and practice urban terrain and counter-terrorism operations. This intensive collaboration enhances Israel’s military capabilities and develops a greater understanding and closer relationship between our military and the Israeli Defense Forces.

This collaboration is also furthered by the fact that many Israeli officers and enlisted personnel attend U.S. military schools such as the National War College. These personnel exchanges allow Israel’s future military leaders to acquire essential professional skills, as well as build life-long relationships with their U.S. military counterparts.

A third way we support Israel’s defense needs is by ensuring Israel is equipped with highly advanced systems. Through both our government-to-government Foreign Military Sales program and Direct Commercial Sales, we are able to provide Israel with advanced products and systems that are restricted to only the closest of allies and partners. In the past few years, we have notified Congress of a number of significant sales, most notably the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The F-35’s advanced capabilities will prove a key contribution to upholding Israel’s military edge for many years to come.

Additionally, Israel benefits from a War Reserve Stockpile that is maintained in Israel by U.S. European Command. This can be used to boost Israeli defenses in the case of a significant military emergency. Also, like many of our partners overseas, Israel is also able to access millions of dollars in free or discounted military equipment each year through the Department of Defense’s Excess Defense Articles program.

We are also improving the process through which defense sales to Israel are notified to Congress. Israel will soon join some of our closest partners, including NATO members, Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand, as a country subject to an expedited Congressional Notification process. This also puts higher thresholds on the value of transactions that need to be notified to Congress. This means that the smaller routine sales and purchases that occur between allies can happen more quickly. By including Israel in this small group we are better able to meet their defense needs and therefore ensure their security.

Furthermore, unlike other beneficiaries of Foreign Military Financing, Israel is the only country authorized to set aside one-quarter of its FMF funding for off-shore procurements. This exception provides a significant boost for Israel’s domestic defense industry, as it helps them to develop indigenous production capacity and enables them to invest in research and development, which is critical to developing advanced systems.

However, what underpins all of these efforts to support Israel’s qualitative military edge, is the closeness of our bilateral political-military relationship. This Administration’s commitment to Israel’s security is not just about providing resources or just implementing existing policies. Rather, we have been cultivating new ways to ensure Israel’s security and enhance our relationship. During the Obama Administration, there has been an unprecedented reinvigoration of our bilateral defense consultations. And in the wake of the dramatic changes in the region, we are looking to expand these even further.

Through nearly continuous high-level discussions and visits, we have re-energized established dialogues such as the U.S.-Israel Joint Political-Military Group, or JPMG, and the Defense Policy Advisory Group, among others. I lead the U.S. government’s discussions within the JPMG, which includes representatives from both the State Department and the Pentagon on the U.S. side and the Foreign and Defense Ministries on the Israeli side. These discussions cover a wide range of political-military issues, but it is first and foremost focused on maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge. The DoD-led Defense Policy Advisory Group also provides a high-level forum that is dedicated to further enhancing defense policy coordination.

But these forums are just one piece of a larger set of dialogues. We are conducting an unprecedented number of intimate consultations at senior levels of our governments. These small, often informal, private sessions allow us to talk about a wide range of security issues, ranging from defense procurement to regional security. These consultations provide an opportunity for our governments to share perspectives on policies, explain how we perceive certain threats, address potential concerns, and find new areas for cooperation.

One example of our growing cooperation can be found in our joint efforts to prevent and interdict the illicit trafficking of arms into Gaza. In 2009, the United States and Israel began intensive consultations to address this threat. It has become a top agenda item whenever we meet for bilateral security talks. And these efforts have since expanded into a wider international effort involving more than 10 countries and international organizations called the Gaza Counter Arms Smuggling Initiative – or GCASI.

The eighth GCASI meeting will be held in Paris in December. And under this multi-national initiative, we are working to employ a broad range of diplomatic, military, intelligence and law enforcement tools to stop the shipment of arms, especially rockets and missiles into Gaza that threaten neighboring Israeli communities. The United States and Israel are also working closely in a number of other areas, such as combating terrorist financing and countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction through the Proliferation Security Initiative. This collaboration is only possible because of the strength of our bilateral political-military relationship. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full text of the speech, on the State Dept. website.


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