Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro recently spoke to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy about the steps taken by President Barack Obama to strengthen Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME). Prior to Obama’s presidency, President George W. Bush permitted Israel’s QME to diminish; immediately upon taking office, Obama took action to restore Israel’s QME. This helped to ensure that Israel has the latest and most effective military technologies in order to protect its citizens, deter its enemies, and pursue peace. Israeli leaders from across the political and defense spectrums—including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, among others—have praised Obama for his actions to restore and bolster Israel’s QME.
Shapiro firmly declared: “As Israel looks to the future, it should know that America will be there by its side.”
Below are excerpts and video from Shapiro’s address. More from the speech can be viewed here.
Record-Breaking Military Assistance to Israel during a Time of Budgetary Challenges
“I am proud to say that this administration has taken steps to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship and preserve it in a new century and era of dramatic change. As a result of the Obama Administration’s commitment, our security relationship with Israel is broader, deeper and more intense than ever before. Prime Minister Netanyahu has said that the security cooperation between our two countries is ‘unprecedented.’ In fact, I believe that no American administration has done as much as ours for Israel’s security.”
“Despite these budget constrained times our commitment is unshakeable. For Fiscal Year 2012, the Administration requested more than $3 billion in security assistance funding specifically for Israel, the largest such request in U.S. history. These requests fulfill the Obama Administration’s commitment to implement the 2007 memorandum of understanding with Israel to provide $30 billion in security assistance over 10 years. Our funding commitment directly supports Israel’s security, as it allows Israel to purchase the sophisticated defense equipment it needs to protect itself, deter aggressors, and maintain its qualitative military edge. Today, I can assure you that—even in challenging budgetary times—this Administration will continue to honor this 10-year, $30 billion commitment in future fiscal years.”
Intensive Missile Defense Cooperation
The Iron Dome
”[W]e are taking steps to help Israel better defend itself from the threat of rockets from Hezbollah and Hamas….That is why last year, the President asked Congress to authorize $205 million to support the production of an Israeli-developed short range rocket defense system called Iron Dome. The funding for Iron Dome is above and beyond the $3 billion in Foreign Military Financing we provide. Iron Dome is part of a comprehensive layered defense against the threat of short range rockets fired at the Israeli population. Our funding enables Israel to expand and accelerate Iron Dome production and deployment and improve its multi-tiered defense against short-range rockets. This system is proving its worth. Having deployed several Iron Dome units to protect areas in southern Israel, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak noted that Iron Dome was showing ‘exceptional’ results….Our support for Iron Dome and similar efforts help provide Israel with the capabilities and the confidence that it needs to take the tough decisions ahead for a comprehensive peace.”
Other Missile Defense Programs
“We are enhancing Israel’s Arrow Weapon System to counter long-range ballistic missile threats by co-developing the Arrow-3 interceptor. We are upgrading Israel’s Patriot Air and Missile Defense System, which was first deployed during the 1991 Gulf War. And we have also deployed an advanced radar system to provide Israel early warning of incoming missiles. Furthermore, David’s Sling, a system developed to defend against short-range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, was developed jointly by Israeli and American companies.”
Unprecedented Arms Sales
”[W]e support Israel’s defense needs ... by ensuring Israel is equipped with highly advanced systems. Through both our government-to-government Foreign Military Sales program and Direct Commercial Sales, we are able to provide Israel with advanced products and systems that are restricted to only the closest of allies and partners. In the past few years, we have notified Congress of a number of significant sales, most notably the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The F-35’s advanced capabilities will prove a key contribution to upholding Israel’s military edge for many years to come….
“We are also improving the process through which defense sales to Israel are notified to Congress. Israel will soon join some of our closest partners, including NATO members, Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand, as a country subject to an expedited Congressional Notification process….By including Israel in this small group we are better able to meet their defense needs and therefore ensure their security.”
Cooperation to Combat Hamas’ Smuggling into the Gaza Strip
“One example of our growing cooperation, can be found in our joint efforts to prevent and interdict the illicit trafficking of arms into Gaza. In 2009, the United States and Israel began intensive consultations to address this threat…. And these efforts have since expanded into a wider international effort involving more than 10 countries and international organizations called the Gaza Counter Arms Smuggling Initiative—or GCASI….[U]nder this multi-national initiative, we are working to employ a broad range of diplomatic, military, intelligence and law enforcement tools to stop the shipment of arms, especially rockets and missiles into Gaza that threaten neighboring Israeli communities.”
High-Level Military-to-Military Exchanges: JUNIPER COBRA, Austere Challenge, JPMG, and DPAG
“Another way we help ensure Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge is through joint military exercises and training. Last fall we conducted the ballistic missile defense exercise: JUNIPER COBRA 2010. More than 1,000 U.S. troops participated in JUNIPER COBRA, making it the largest U.S.-Israeli military exercise in history…. [N]ext year, we will combine the U.S. European Command’s premier annual exercise, Austere Challenge, with the annual iteration of the Juniper Cobra exercise. This will involve more than 5,000 U.S and Israeli forces simulating the ballistic missile defense of Israel, making it by far the largest and the most significant exercise in U.S.-Israeli history….
“Through nearly continuous high-level discussions and visits, we have re-energized established dialogues such as the U.S.-Israel Joint Political-Military Group, or JPMG, and the Defense Policy Advisory Group, among others…. The [Department of Defense]-led Defense Policy Advisory Group also provides a high-level forum that is dedicated to further enhancing defense policy coordination…. But these forums are just one piece of a larger set of dialogues. We are conducting an unprecedented number of intimate consultations at senior levels of our governments.”