In 1952, Gen. Omar Bradley,
head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, believed
the West required 19 divisions to defend
the Middle East and that Israel could
supply two. He also expected only three
states to provide the West air power in
Middle Eastern defense by 1955: Great Britain,
Turkey and Israel. Bradley's analysis was
rejected because the political echelon decided
it was more important for the United States
to work with Egypt, and later Iraq. It was
feared that integration of Israeli forces
in Western strategy would alienate the Arabs.
This was no doubt also a reason why NATO turned down Israel's request for membership
and the United States declined to sign a
bilateral defense treaty that Israel hoped
would counterbalance the Western alliance
with Arab states that would eventually become
Israel's crushing victory over the combined Arab forces
in 1967 caused this view
to be revised. The following year, the United States sold
Israel sophisticated planes (Phantom jets) for the first time. Washington
shifted its Middle East policy from seeking a balance of forces to ensuring
Israel enjoyed a qualitative
edge over its enemies.
Israel proved its value in 1970 when the United States
asked for help in bolstering King
Hussein's regime. Israel's willingness to aid Amman, and movement
of troops to the Jordanian border, persuaded Syria to withdraw the tanks it had sent into Jordan to support PLO forces during
Black September. In addition, the Soviets knew that all the squadron
leaders of the Sixth Fleet landed in Israel to coordinate activities.
Also, by the early 1970s, it had become clear that
no Arab state could or would contribute to Western defense in the Middle
East. The Baghdad Pact had
long ago expired, and the regimes friendly to the United States were
weak reeds in the region compared to the anti-Western forces in Egypt,
Syria and Iraq. Even after Egypt's reorientation following the signing
of its peace treaty with Israel,
the United States did not count on any Arab government for military
The Carter Administration began to implement a form
of strategic cooperation (it was not referred to as such) by making Israel eligible to sell military
equipment to the United States. The willingness to engage in limited,
joint military endeavors was viewed by President Carter as a means of
rewarding Israel for "good behavior" in peace talks with Egypt.
Though still reluctant to formalize the relationship,
strategic cooperation became a major focus of the U.S.-Israel relationship
when Ronald Reagan entered office. Before his election, Reagan had written: "Only by full appreciation of the critical role the
State of Israel plays in our strategic calculus can we build the foundation
for thwarting Moscow's designs on territories and resources vital to
our security and our national well-being."
Reagan's view culminated in the November 30, 1981,
signing of a Memorandum
of Understanding on "strategic cooperation." On November
29, 1983, a new agreement was signed creating the Joint Political-Military
Group (JPMG) and a group to oversee security assistance, the Joint Security
Assistance Planning Group (JSAP).
The JPMG was originally designed to discuss means
of countering threats posed by increased Soviet involvement in the Middle
East. It has placed increasing emphasis, however, on bilateral concerns
about the proliferation of chemical
weapons and ballistic
The JSAP was formed in response to Israel's economic
crisis in the mid1980s. It is a binational group that meets annually
in Washington to examine Israel's current and future military procurement
requirements. It also formulates plans for the allocation of U.S. Foreign
Military Sales credits in light of current threat assessments and U.S.
An example of cooperation between the branches occurred
January 23, 1987, when Congress designated Israel as a major non-NATO
ally. This law formally established Israel as an ally, and allowed its
industries to compete equally with NATO countries and other close U.S.
allies for contracts to produce a significant number of defense items.
In April 1988, President Reagan signed another MOU encompassing
all prior agreements. This agreement institutionalized the strategic
By the end of Reagan's term, the U.S. had prepositioned
equipment in Israel, regularly held joint training exercises, began
co-development of the Arrow
Anti-Tactical Ballistic Missile and was engaged in a host of other
cooperative military endeavors.
Since then, U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation has
continued to evolve. Today, these strategic ties are stronger than ever.
To cite a few examples:
The U.S. approved $40 million in June 2015 for a joint project with the Israeli government aimed at addressing the threat of cross-border attack/smuggling tunnels.
U.S. diplomats reported in 2014 that Israel was assisting in the fight against the Islamic State by providing the United States with intelligence information, including lists of Westerners who have joined ISIS. Israel has also provided vital intelligence in the form of drones flying over ISIS territory. This information is then used to carry out air strikes and plan coordinated attacks.
Because of its strategic location and its unquestionable reliability
as an ally, the U.S. has found Israel to be an ideal place for training,
maintenance, and prepositioning of material and supplies.
More than 300 Department of Defense personnel travel to Israel
Joint military exercises are regularly held. Israel has had more
extensive naval exercises with the U.S. than any other country in
the Middle East and has conducted training exchanges with special
American antiterrorist forces.
Israel's Haifa port has routinely been declared to be the best
and most cost-effective facility of its kind in the region by senior
Navy officials. Haifa receives approximately 40 U.S. Navy ships
each year, hosting thousands of U.S. sailors and Marines.
Israel also makes other facilities available to the U.S. including
hospitals, training areas, and bombing ranges in the Negev Desert.
And most important, Israel is the only country in the area that
the U.S. can truly rely on to provide open and unhindered access
to its ports and facilities.
A Joint Anti-Terrorism Working Group was created.
A hotline was established between the Pentagon and the Israeli
A study found that Israel can help the United States in 13 of
the 21 critical technological areas that the Pentagon has identified
as vital to keeping American defenses strong. The U.S. continues
to fund the research and development of Israeli weapons systems
and military equipment including the Arrow missile, the Tactical
High Energy Laser, the Barak ship self-defense missile system,
Reactive Armor Tiles, Crash-Attenuating Seats, the Have-Nap missile
and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.
In early 1997, Israel linked up to the U.S. missile warning satellite
system, which will provide Israel with real-time warning if a missile
is launched against it.
The strategic cooperation agreements established Israel
as a de facto ally of the United States, institutionalized military
to military contacts, sent a message to the Arabs that America was not
afraid to risk upsetting them and shifted at least part of the focus
of relations with Israel from Congress to the Executive Branch.