Why Trump’s offer of a military alliance with Israel might not work
TEL AVIV – When President Donald Trump announced on Twitter this weekend that he had discussed a possible mutual defense treaty with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it was widely seen as an effort to support an Israeli leader besieged who faces elections on Tuesday that could end his political career.
Yet compared to Trump’s pre-election giveaway to Netanyahu in the April election, when Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, security experts say the supposed giveaway is not as beneficial to Israel as it is. it seems.
“The idea of this treaty has been evaluated several times in Israel in the past,” says Amos Yadlin, former head of Israeli military intelligence who now heads the Institute for National Security Studies.
The idea has always been rejected, he says, because the costs far outweigh the benefits. According to Yadlin, the main advantage of this treaty, which the United States has with many allies, is what is called NATO Article 5. If a nation is attacked, other partner nations will come to its aid. This deterrent is very valuable, he says, because any state or group that attacks Israel would understand that they are also going to war with America.
“Yet the bottom line has always been that while it would be very useful for Israel’s deterrence and security,” Yadlin said, “this is something Israel could not accept.” This treaty goes both ways, after all. And Israel, a country the size of New Jersey with a population of just 9 million and currently facing attacks from its sworn enemies in Gaza, Lebanon and Syria, would not be willing or able to come to the States. -United. defense.
Another problem for Israel is that a mutual defense treaty would limit its military freedom, requiring American cooperation before acting. While Israel may have Trump’s unhindered approval, future U.S. leaders may be less supportive of Israel’s decisions.
Yadlin recalls the 1981 Israeli attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor. “If Israel had asked the Reagan administration for permission to do so, the response would have been no,” he said.
The third issue is Israel’s best-kept secret: its nuclear capabilities, about which it should be transparent if it were to conclude a mutual defense treaty.
And finally, there is another thorny issue: the borders, which Israel would be asked to formally define as part of a defense pact. “I don’t see any problem with this issue,” Yadlin said. “But I’m not sure Netanyahu wants to answer that. “
Like Netanyahu’s announcement last week that he would annex parts of the West Bank if re-elected, many political analysts say this is only a last-ditch effort to get his base to vote.
“This is clearly an attempt to show how much Netanyahu is friends with Trump and how much of a super leader he is,” says Gideon Rahat, professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and director of the political reform program at the Israeli Institute of Democracy.
“He does his best to show how respected he is in the world, and he indeed has a lot of allies around the world among the people who agree with him on what democracy should look like, as well. than foreign policy. “
Much of Netanyahu’s campaign, both now and before the April election, hinges on his unique relationship with Trump, who is more popular in Israel than it is in the United States.
Giant billboards perched above highways and towns read “Netanyahu: Another League” with a photo of Trump smiling and Netanyahu shaking hands. In response to Trump’s tweet on Saturday about the possibility of a mutual defense treaty, Netanyahu tweeted: “The Jewish state has never had a best friend in the White House.
Considering the drawbacks Israel would face in making such a deal, many say it is unlikely to succeed. However, if this mutual defense treaty were to be customized to meet Israel’s unique needs, some say it may well be in Israel’s interest. For example, if the treaty were designed to focus specifically on an Iranian threat, Yadlin said, “only then could it be considered positive.”
Such a deal would be particularly valuable to Israel now that John Bolton is no longer Trump’s national security adviser. For Netanyahu and many Israelis, the Iranian nuclear threat is Israel’s greatest concern. With Bolton out of the White House, many here fear Trump’s stance on Iran will soften, potentially allowing the Islamic Republic to develop a nuclear weapon that it would almost surely use against Israel.
“The real pity is that we are talking about very serious things,” said Rahat. “This is not an election propaganda topic.”
Whether or not Israel signs a mutual defense treaty, Netanyahu is already touting the mere talk with Trump as a victory. In an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 television station just hours after Trump’s tweet hit the headlines on Saturday, Netanyahu told voters, “I’m going to get us a defense pact that will keep us safe for decades to come. centuries, but for that I need your votes. “