US President Joe Biden delivers remarks during a Hanukkah reception at the White House earlier this month. Biden proudly calls himself a Zionist, and it should not be taken for granted, says the writer.(photo credit: Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)
Can Israel go it alone? Years ago, Israel tried to develop the Kfir fighter jet after its primary source, the French, embargoed the delivery of its Mirage fighter to Israel. That didn’t end well.
Former national security adviser Maj. General (res.) Yaakov Amidror says, “The initial lessons from the war are the need to legitimize the option of preventive strikes and wars; expand investment in innovative technology to further improve Israel’s qualitative edge; and increase the defense budget…(to) deploy larger forces to the defense of the borders and to fight simultaneously on more than one front.” These prudent recommendations must be implemented despite the high price Israelis will pay.
But what if their best plans depend on their indispensable ally, America? In the future, American presidents from the Left who believe Israel is a victimizer of Palestinians or isolationist and deficit-hawk Republicans may, for different reasons, decrease aid to Israel or cut off its supply lines to dictate the longevity of a future war, even if Israel will be profoundly injured.
A Haaretz headline read, “Reliance on US Weapons Forces Netanyahu to Accept Biden’s War Requests.” It went on to say, “The American president is trying to balance his support for Israel with pressure from his base to shape Israeli wartime policy. Military aid packages are proving to be the best piece of leverage that the US holds over Israel.”
President Biden has given unprecedented leeway and, so far, an unfettered supply train to Israel, allowing it to prosecute a war going into its third month. The president supports Israel’s goal to destroy Hamas’s military capabilities. Biden proudly calls himself a Zionist, and that should be appreciated and not taken for granted, especially in an era where presidents of major American universities cannot state that calling for the genocide of the Jews violates university policies on harassment.
A growing number of Democrats are pressuring the president to call for an immediate ceasefire, which is, in effect, a victory for Hamas. Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen is demanding military aid to Israel be conditioned based on the “unacceptably high” number of civilian deaths in Gaza.
Would President Harris be as supportive as President Biden?
American voters are keenly aware that if Biden is reelected, his vice president has a good chance of becoming president during his second term. Will Vice President Kamala Harris be as supportive of Israel in its next war? Will she supply the weapons and diplomatic support that President Biden has done during this war?
America has disproportionate leverage over Israel because of its dependency on American arms, memoranda of understanding for military aid, and protection of Israel in international bodies with its veto on the United Nations Security Council. But Israelis need freedom of action to confront enemies, starting with Iran and its nuclear program and against its proxies, Hezbollah, PIJ, Houthis, and Hamas.
Supply lines and stockpiled ammunition may not sound sexy like the next generation of laser technology (Iron Beam) to stop enemy missiles, but they are the lifeblood of a military. In 1973, Egypt devastated the Israeli air and conventional forces. Only a rapid resupply of weapons and munitions staved off a catastrophe.
With young Americans sympathizing more with Palestinians even in light of the gang rapes, mutilations, torture, and murder committed on October 7, Israel’s strategic planners need to anticipate the years ahead when these voters define a significant segment of the Democratic party. The Republican isolationists, for the foreseeable future, will not be in ascendency.
A foreboding harbinger for Israel is a Harris-Harvard poll showing that two-thirds of Gen Z Americans think that “Jews as a class are oppressors,” and 20% believe the Holocaust was a myth. According to a National Review headline based on the same poll, “Half of Young Americans Say Israel Should Be ‘Ended and Given to Hamas.”
These potential future leaders should affect Israeli military planning in the decades to come as they become a growing anti-Israel caucus within Congress, shape social media, and are likely to be receptive to boycotting Israel from their seats in corporate boardrooms.
CAN ISRAEL go it alone? Years ago, Israel tried to develop the Kfir fighter jet after its primary source, the French, embargoed the delivery of its Mirage fighter to Israel. That didn’t end well.
Trouble could be right around the corner as there will be growing pressure by the administration for Israel to accept a two-state solution after the war, ignoring the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research poll showing that “57% of Palestinians in Gaza and 82% in the West Bank” supported the Hamas massacre on October 7th. If Israel resists, some members of the administration will call for conditioning military aid until Israel acquiesces.
Israel is dependent on America. How long the relationship will last as the American electorate changes is an open question. Israel may not be able to build a state-of-the-art fighter jet by itself, but the US does value Israel’s advanced technological contributions to our F-35 program. Joint programs with greater Israeli participation, like Iron Dome, will make each nation dependent on the other, create a healthier relationship, and make one less likely to fray under political pressure.
Israel’s long-range planning needs to anticipate that a future American president may want to leverage supplying weapons to pressure Israel into uncomfortable compromises. America’s willingness to continue its current level of military aid cannot be taken for granted. Diversifying weapons procurement and production is another long-range consideration.
In the meantime, stockpiling much more significant quantities of munitions and other essential equipment for extended battles is vital for freedom of action. This will require substantial additional Israeli financial resources that will be hard to come by, as the economic effects of this war on the Israeli economy are likely to be profound.
This article originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post on Dec. 25, 2023
The writer is the director of MEPIN (Middle East Political Information Network). He regularly briefs members of Congress and their foreign policy aides. He is the senior security editor for The Jerusalem Report.