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Israelis Divided over Defense Alliance with US

Israelis Divided over Defense Alliance with US

Monday, 16 September, 2019 - 09:30
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office December 2, 2018. Gali Tibbon/Pool via REUTERS  

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused military and intelligence leaders, who oppose the idea of a joint defense treaty with the United States, of “not understanding high politics like I do.”


He stressed that such a treaty between “a small country like Israel and the US giant” was a "major historical gift" that will generate "Israeli gains that cannot be talked about publicly, but the greatness of which can be guessed for Israeli security."


Netanyahu was commenting on media leaks, which said that he was talking to US President Donald Trump about the establishment of a joint defense pact, “without asking the concerned parties in the Israeli army and security services” about their opinion.


A number of generals, speaking on behalf of the military and security institutions, have emphasized that signing such a treaty required months of negotiations between the Israeli Ministry of Security, the Pentagon and other US government agencies, and could not be completed by the next Israeli elections.


Senior officials in the Israeli security services confirmed that they opposed the signing of a joint defense treaty with the United States because Netanyahu is using it for electoral propaganda, and given that such a treaty would entangle the Israeli army “during future military crises and security missions.”


In this regard, Opposition Knesset Member Gabi Ashkenazi, a former army chief of staff and then director general of the Ministry of Security, said that the Joint Defense Treaty would force Israel to view any attack on the United States as an attack on it.

“So we will see our soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, which we reject,” he noted.


The current Knesset candidate, former prime minister and army chief of staff, Ehud Barak, described Netanyahu’s proposed security deal as cheap electoral propaganda. Barak played down the chances of the deal’s approval, saying it should be first ratified in Congress and the US House of Representatives.


Netanyahu disregarded the criticism, saying that despite the concerned officials’ long military past, they “don't understand high politics like I do.”

“I know them well… They are often wrong, and often right. They made a mistake here about the defense alliance,” he remarked.

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