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Partners For Change: National Security

The defense of freedom and the promotion of democracy around the world not only reflect our deepest values; they serve our national interest.

Israel has always believed that as the leader of the Free World the United States must play an active role in international affairs. And Israel has been a consistent and reliable ally, with Israeli and American leaders working together to protect shared interests and promote common values.


Clinton and Gore made restoring America's economic leadership a top priority for maintaining the nation's security. One of the required elements, they said, was to negotiate free trade agreements that are "fair to American workers and farmers, protect the environment, and promote decent labor standards at home and abroad." Israel signed the first Free Trade Agreement with the United States in 1985 and it has satisfied each of those conditions.

Israel purchases well over $1 billion worth of military goods and services from the United States each year, creating approximately 25,000 new American jobs.

A Technological Edge

A second element in the Clinton-Gore strategy is to maintain America's technological edge. Israel has been working with the United States to advance both nations' technologies through the three binational foundations (the Binational Science Foundation, Binational Agricultural Research and Development Foundation and the Binational Research and Development Foundation). In March 1993, President Clinton also established a U.S.-Israel Science and Technology Commission to increase the level of collaboration.

Restructuring the Military

The two candidates outlined a program for restructuring America's military. They recommended that:

  • The defense burden be shifted to a wider coalition of nations;
  • Intelligence capabilities be enhanced;
  • A limited missile defense system be developed;
  • The overwhelming superiority of our technology be preserved; and
  • A new advanced research agency be created.

The United States has long viewed Israel as a strategic asset that can ease America's defense burden in the Middle East. The two forces share the same technology, armaments, moral values and language. In 1983, Ronald Reagan formalized the strategic relationship because of his conviction that Israel could play a significant role in deterring Soviet and Soviet allies' aggression in the Middle East.

In March 1993, following his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, President Bill Clinton said: "We have begun a dialogue intended to raise our relationship to a new level of strategic partnership, partners in the pursuit of peace, partners in the pursuit of security."

Since the beginning of the strategic relationship, dozens of combined exercises have been held. American-Israeli maneuvers provide an opportunity for the forces of both countries to share expertise and exchange methods. In addition, Haifa is one of the U.S. Navy's most popular ports of call because sailors feel at home and do not face the anti-American sentiment frequently found elsewhere. Consideration is now being given to the possibility of expanding the facilities in Haifa to allow it to become a "home port" for a carrier battle group. Other examples of strategic cooperation include:

  • The U.S. Navy used Israeli-manufactured Kfir aircraft as adversary fighters for "Top Gun" dissimilar air-to-air combat training.
  • American pilots have difficulty getting weapons training in Europe because of the weather, so they use Israeli ranges where the climate lends itself to Air Force training requirements.
  • Israel also provides an important testing ground for U.S. equipment designed for non-European contingencies, such as fighting in extreme heat and deserts.
  • Top physicians and hospitals are available in Israel should American personnel require assistance during a regional conflict.

The United States also purchases many Israeli weapon systems, including the Popeye air-to-ground missile and the Pioneer drones, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles used extensively during Operation Desert Storm. As a result of their combat experience, Israelis have also improved American systems. By producing new technologies and improving existing ones, Israel helps reduce the research and development cost to the Pentagon.

Consistent with Clinton and Gore's interest in pursuing research and development of a missile defense system, Israel and the United States are working together on the Anti-Tactical Ballistic Missile (ATBM) system to shoot down ballistic missiles.

The United States and Israel have a long history of intelligence cooperation. The truth is the United States has little alternative but to rely on Israel for much of its Middle Eastern human intelligence because the CIA's capability has diminished in the aftermath of the Iranian revolution and the American withdrawal from Lebanon.

Promote Democracy

Clinton and Gore placed a high priority on promoting democracy around the world and providing economic and technical assistance that "increase material incentives to democratize." Israel shares these goals and often can do the work at lower cost than the United States. Consequently, the two nations have been working together through a series of programs:

The U.S.-Israel Cooperative Development Research Program (CDR) is an Agency for International Development (AID) program that seeks to increase the access of less-developed countries (LDCs) in Africa, Asia and Latin America to Israeli scientific, technical and development expertise. It provides funding for Israeli and developing country scientists to cooperate in joint research on significant development problems, while strengthening the future ability of LDC scientists to do such research themselves.

CDR seeks such eventual benefits as improvement of food production, reduction of the burden of disease, provision of employment, or protection of the environment and national resources. Emphasis is given to problems common to several target countries that are not the predominant focus of domestic research funding in the United States. The CDR program emphasizes areas in which Israeli technology and expertise could be particularly valuable to target countries. These areas include arid lands agriculture, irrigation and hydrology and biological pest control.

The U.S.-Israel Cooperative Development Program (CDP) is an AID program that funds training and technical assistance projects run by Israel in developing countries. Past areas of emphasis included: Arid lands agriculture, livestock, exotic crops and irrigation. Some projects have involved:

  • Improving agricultural production in Malawi;
  • Poultry production in Swaziland;
  • Bee keeping in the Ivory Coast;
  • Dairy cattle production in Honduras; and
  • Irrigation in El Salvador, Chile and Guatemala.

In addition, dozens of courses were taught in Israel on agriculture; rural development; community development; cooperation and labor studies; education and health, medicine and management. A similar number of courses were taught in countries such as Kenya, Swaziland, Lesotho, Cameroon, Malawi, Ivory Coast, Togo, Philippines, Nepal, Columbia, Uruguay, Honduras, Panama, Jamaica, Costa Rica and Barbados.

AID provides funding to Israel's Afro-Asian Institute to train leaders from those continents in community development techniques.

Aiding Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union

The United States has declared its intention to assist the countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union make the transition to democracy and a free enterprise economic system. To do this, it is necessary to build democratic institutions, strengthen the economies of these countries and assist in their overall development. Clinton and Gore proposed a "Democracy Corps" of volunteers to carry out this objective.

While the United States has the know-how, it lacks people with the language skills and familiarity with the target nations. One country has both the knowledge, and a large pool of people familiar with the area, who could immediately share their expertise and thereby help fulfill America's goals. That country is Israel. For example, an Israeli Democracy Corps of Russian emigrés could assist in the development of parliamentary institutions; trade unions; free markets in a partly government-owned system; a municipal tax system and a banking and insurance industry.

Israel has the advantage of being able to put teams of experts together almost immediately, for example, to provide medical treatment and training. And it can be done at a comparatively lower cost than if it were to be done by Americans directly.

In recognition of Israel's ability to assist in meeting American foreign policy objectives in the former Soviet Union, the United States and Israel agreed in 1992 to begin a program to provide joint technical assistance to five central Asian states: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. Israeli efforts will concentrate on the agricultural sectors of the five economies and may also focus on public health programs.

Mideast Cooperation

In 1979, the Middle East Regional Cooperation Program (MERC) was created to sponsor joint research projects by scientists from Egypt, Israel and the United States. MERC is administered by AID, which funds projects that have scientific and cooperation components carried out by nongovernmental parties with the permission of their governments. By its involvement in the program, the United States plays a valuable role in nurturing the normalization of Egyptian-Israeli relations. The program focuses on infectious diseases, marine science and arid land agriculture. Its successes include:

  • Production of a desert goat that produces more milk and survives in a drier environment than previous species;
  • Development of a new edible shrub that is rich in protein;
  • Cross-breeding of fish to create a new high-protein species; and
  • Tomatoes and melons grown in salty water.

One example of how this program can directly benefit Americans is the research done to prevent the potentially fatal disease leishmaniasis. This skin disorder is spread by sandflies and does not occur in the United States. Some American soldiers who served in Saudi Arabia, however, contracted the disease. Others who serve in the region may come in contact with the parasite. Israeli research done under the MERC program can aid in the diagnosis of the disease and identification of potential carriers.

Another Israeli development that has attracted the attention of the Pentagon is an ointment for the tropical treatment of lesions. This ointment replaces the oral administration of drugs in a hospital that has to be employed in severe cases. Healing of the lesions is quick and the treatment minimizes the disfiguring scars that often remain after the natural healing of leishmania sores.

In 1991, AID contracted for an outside review of the program. The report praised the MERC program and recommended that it continue to receive strong government support. It also said the program has "contributed in a modest way to the Middle East peace process" and characterized its accomplishments as "remarkable in view of the obstacles faced." The report outlined several areas for expansion, including the involvement of other Arab countries.