Israel Is Strategic Asset After All

Think Tank Rebuts View That Downside Outweighs Benefits

By Nathan Guttman

Published November 14, 2011, issue of November 18, 2011.
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A new study from a Washington think tank supportive of ties between America and Israel is seeking to rebut growing sentiment among military experts who question Israel’s value as a U.S. strategic asset.

Walter Slocombe
Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Walter Slocombe

The report, released November 2 by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, argues that the benefits of America’s close military ties to Israel far outweigh the costs those ties impose on America’s relations with the Arab and Muslim worlds. Its authors, Robert Blackwill and Walter Slocombe, take issue in particular with those who argue that relations between the U.S. and Israel are a one-way street, with Israel on the receiving side.

“We reject that analysis,” write the two analysts, a Democrat and Republican, respectively, who both served in senior national security positions. “To the contrary, we believe that the United States and Israel have an impressive list of common national interests; that Israeli actions make substantial direct contributions to these U.S. interests.”

They cite, among other things, Israel’s role in developing a joint missile defense system; an American anti-missile system emplaced in Israel; shared military exercises taking place on a regular basis; the U.S. purchase of Israeli military technology, including drones, targeting equipment and armored vehicles, and counterterrorism cooperation, which includes shared intelligence and U.S. use of Israeli systems for homeland security.

In preparing the report, the Washington Institute turned to two outside scholars who have impressive national security credentials and a bipartisan background. Blackwill was deputy national security adviser for strategic planning in the George W. Bush White House, and Slocombe served as undersecretary of defense for policy in the Clinton administration. The Washington Institute declined to disclose what, if any, financial arrangements were made between itself and the two authors in connection with the report’s production.

Robert Blackwill
Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Robert Blackwill

In their report, Blackwill and Slocombe focus on one of three pillars long seen as providing the support for Israel’s special relationship with the United States. Two of the pillars widely cited as at the foundation of the bilateral relationship are shared values and an American moral obligation to help the Jewish state. Each has been subject to some debate of its own in recent years. But the report, whose importance the Washington Institute underlined with separate roll-outs in New York and Washington, aims to counter increasing criticism of the cost to Washington of American-Israeli strategic ties. The criticism has come from senior Pentagon officials, generals and independent defense strategists.


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