Commentary: America’s Carrot & Stick Policy with Israel

Even as President Obama mistakenly announced a $70 billion foreign aid package to support Israel’s anti-missile program, current and former agency officials reveal that the agency considers Israel its “No. 1 counterintelligence threat” in the Middle East.

This apparent contradiction seems to be a fundamental policy practice of this administration with regard to Israel – to give with one hand while taking away with the other.

In an apparent effort to demonstrate America’s stalwart support of Israel, the President said, “I have made it a top priority for my administration to deepen cooperation with Israel across the whole spectrum of security issues, intelligence, military, technology, and in many ways what this legislation does is bring together all the outstanding cooperation that we have seen really at an unprecedented level between our two countries to underscore our unshakable commitment to Israel’s security . . . . I’m also very pleased that this week we are going to be able to announce $70 million in additional spending — $70 billion, excuse me, in additional spending for ‘Iron Dome.’”

He was right the first time. The foreign aid in question was in fact $70 million in additional funding, earmarked for Israel’s Iron Dome program, a missile defense system which was the first to successfully intercept incoming missiles in the air. The system was developed exclusively by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems with significant financial support from Washington. The system’s components are Israeli inventions, from the radar and battle management systems, to the communications and the missile interceptor, guidance systems. The US investment enabled the Israelis to complete development ahead of schedule within less than three years.

At the same time, new leaks appeared in the press that former US officials have said that the CIA considers Israel to be Mideast’s biggest spy threat. According to the Associated Press, CIA officials have revealed that Israel may have leaked info that led to the capture of an agent inside Syria’s chemical weapons program.

That friendly nations still spy on each other is a given. And there are still good reasons for doing so, since even though allies work together and support each other, state interests often are at odds and nations feel the need to ensure that their own interests are protected, even at the expense of an ally’s secrets.

Many years ago, while in Jerusalem, I met an American who told me he had been approached by the CIA and asked to spy on Israeli activities. He told me of a meeting he had had with an asset in Tel Aviv, and of the offer he had received. Whether or not he ever accepted the offer, I do not know. But the fact that a US spy agency was apparently recruiting in Israel some twenty years ago, when US-Israel relations were somewhat warmer than they are now is telling.

More recently, I reported my research on a US company which, according to my findings, had been heavily funded by Hamas. Instead of being asked for more information, I was instead asked to find out if one of their contractors was an agent of Israel’s Mossad. It was astonishing to me that the apparent threat from Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, was considered greater than that of Hamas, an organization on the State Department’s terrorist list.

Earlier this year, Congress approved a foreign-aid bill for $680 million to support follow-on production of the Iron Dome anti-rocket weapon systems. The funding came with strong condition that Israel must share proprietary technology related to the system with the US, including that which Israel considered necessary for its own national security.

That Israel should be wary of sharing too much with the US may seem unreasonable, considering that the US is footing a good part of the bill. But America has broken trust with Israel more than once, selling sensitive Israeli technology to Israel’s enemies – Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and other Middle Eastern states sworn to Israel’s destruction.

In the end, the Iron Dome is now essential to Israel’s defense in an increasingly dangerous neighborhood. As the dominoes fall around Israel, in what has cynically been called the “Arab Spring”, and as Iran races towards nuclear supremacy as it threatens Israel with extinction.

As the world becomes ever more dangerous, our government would be well advised to stop playing games with our allies and engage them in a collaboration against our mutual enemies.

Ilana Freedman is Editor of and has been an intelligence analyst for over twenty-five years, specializing in the the Middle East and US foreign relations.

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Posted in Middle East, US

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