At a time when things seem to be falling apart across the globe, the announcement of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the U.S. and Israel provides a moment of hope and stability.
That this agreement, which provides $38 billion of U.S. military aid to Israel, is a boon to the Jewish state is self-evident. It will enable Israel to retain its qualitative military edge in a region fraught with uncertainty, plagued by radical extremism and state failure, and continuing hostility toward Israel.
That military advantage has not only provided security for Israel from neighbors -- some of whom still seek its destruction -- but also major incentive for a number of Arab states to make peace with Israel: if we can't “beat 'em” on the battlefield, maybe peace is the only viable option. As former President Shimon Peres, one of the main architects of Israel’s unmatched military superiority, once put it, Israel’s military strength led her adversaries to “the conclusion that it’s very hard to destroy Israel.” As a result, there has not been a large scale military conflict between Israel and any Arab state for decades.
What may be less obvious - but nevertheless true - are the benefits the United States accrues as a result of this enduring commitment. There is, of course, the reliability of Israel as an ally, the sharing of its intelligence, the peerless experience of Israel on the battlefield, which includes the testing of new technologies that keep Americans and its soldiers safe. There also are the benefits to American military technology companies that will accrue billions of dollars of business since Israel will now be required to buy from American firms, rather than expanding its own arms industry. There’s nothing wrong with creating jobs here at home.
More significant, however, is the core American interest first articulated over the years by Henry Kissinger, that remains powerful to this day, and that is strengthened as a result of this agreement.
Kissinger argued, referring to American interests during the Cold War, that whenever an American ally such as Israel, is engaged in conflict with radical extremist states like Iraq and Syria, allied with the Soviet Union, it is vital that the American ally emerge victorious. This is an American priority, he reasoned, because we not only share democratic values with Israel, but because the moderate Arab states were watching closely to see where Middle East winds were blowing.
If the American-allied Israelis would win, the moderates--the Saudis, the Emirates, the Jordanians--would see their future tied to the Americans. If the Soviet-backed states would triumph, they would act accordingly. By Kissinger's rationale, this was the primary and essential reason for America’s continuing support for Israel.
In a post-Cold War world, this logic holds fast, albeit through a different lens. Once again, the moderate states across the Middle East are watching American behavior closely. Reports of Saudi concern about perceived American weakness in the face of Iranian hostility and expansionism have circulated widely. This frustration was attributed as the reason why the Saudis turned down a seat on the UN Security Council in 2013 -- an unprecedented move.
In this environment, America’s massive commitment to Israel through the MOU sends the clearest message not only to Israel, but to moderate countries across the region. They see that in the conflict between the U.S. and its allies against Iran and its proxies, one can count on American leadership and steadfast support. America is not in retreat — It is doubling down on democracy and renewing its relationships with its core allies.
Today we see the Saudis and Israelis quietly engaging each other in the face of a volatile region characterized by civil war, human suffering and surging radicalism. If this MOU can serve as the beginning of a restoration of faith in American leadership in the region, then the investment in Israel's security will not only benefit the Jewish state, but the relationship between the two countries committed to shared values as well. All things willing, it could be the beginning of a positive direction that can build confidence among moderate countries in a region that continues to harbor hope for a better future.