There is one main reason for the visit of US President Joe Biden to Israel, besides his personal identification with the country, the many US citizens murdered or taken hostage, and the clear need to deter Iran and Hezbollah from escalating the situation. That reason is what was discussed behind the scenes in NATO for nearly a year, and came out into the open at the NATO leaders summit in Vilnius in July. Essentially it’s the proposal made to Ukraine to make do with an "Israel-style" security pact, instead of NATO membership.
Defense outside NATO
This proposal was intended on the one hand to provide security guarantees to Ukraine, consisting of diplomatic and military support, including airlifts of arms and access to advanced technology, but on the other hand not to bring into the alliance a country with indefensible borders, and jump head first into a general Western conflict with Russia, which would follow the invocation of Article 5 of the NATO treaty on collective defense, which states that an attack on one ally will be considered an attack on all of them.
Polish president Andrzej Duda formulated the plan, liaising with the Ukrainians, former NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and of course the US and its main allies in Europe, including the UK, France, and Germany. The struggle is to persuade Ukraine that this agreement is sufficient to calm its security fears, and in essence to create a "second layer" of defense cooperation that will be proposed to other countries formerly part of the Soviet block as well. Not actually within NATO, but strongly connected to critical aspects of its activity. Saudi Arabia could also benefit from such a defense alliance, if the reports of the talks between the sides are accurate.
Now, this entire concept is being put to the test on the bloody Israeli stage. If the existing security agreement between Israel and the US fails to help Israel defend itself, how would it make sense for Ukraine, and other countries after it, to adopt this defense concept?
The security agreement between the US and Israel is renewed once a decade. The latest agreement is valid for the years 2019-2028, and provides for a total of $38 billion in military aid over this period. In addition, Israel receives access to advanced US technology, including the most modern combat aircraft. The US also routinely supplies munitions to Israel, and is ready to operate an airlift of military supplies in the event of war, as we have seen in the past few days - without the US being officially committed to these things, and without Israeli membership of NATO. The support that the US is now giving Israel, without being prepared to put troops on the ground, signifies the maximum possible in the event of a military confrontation for a country that receives an "Israel-style" security agreement. The US under President Biden is determined to demonstrate that this maximum ought to be enough.
The war in Israel therefore now stands at the top of US priorities, because it ties in directly with the confrontation between Ukraine and Russia and the attempt to create a new defense concept that will not entail expansion of NATO, a step that Russia has described as a "red line".
This is one of the reasons that Biden came to Israel: to bring home to Ukraine and to other countries on Russia’s borders, and perhaps also to China, just what a security agreement with the US means. In order for an "Israel-style" security agreement to look like an option for the many relevant countries, the US needs Israel to win.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on October 19, 2023.
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