U.S.-Israel relations have been a bit of a roller coaster of late. First, after the East Jerusalem settlement announcement coincided with Vice President Biden’s visit, things went way down; now, following the “charm offensive,” they seem to be back up. And who knows what tomorrow will bring.
However, notes a valuable Wall Street Journal report, throughout this whole time, relations between the two countries’ defense and intelligence establishments have been consistent—consistently improving. The United States is selling Israel ever more sophisticated military technology. Intelligence-sharing has increased, particularly where halting Iranian arms shipments is concerned. And Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are basically BFFs at this point.
Three main factors explain the close cooperation:
• Even if you buy into the concept of “linkage” (and Tablet Magazine’s Lee Smith believes you shouldn’t), the two countries’ interests, particularly vis-à-vis Iran and its proxies in Damascus and Hezbollah, remain largely aligned.
• A stable region depends on the perception that the United States has Israel’s back; if Israel appears overly weak, that is more likely to invite attacks from its enemies.
• Israel is less likely to take military action against Iran—which many U.S. military and diplomatic leaders don’t want to see happen—if it feels its security is guaranteed by America.
The two-track nature of the alliance is reminiscent of what happened a couple months ago, while Israel was sustaining a bad bout of P.R. due to the general belief that it had assassinated Hamas weapons man Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai. No matter what the diplomats were saying, it seemed pretty clear that military and (especially) intelligence ties wouldn’t suffer. And, apparently, they didn’t.