Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should try to capitalize on the goodwill generated from President Donald Trump’s visit to obtain a first-ever full defense treaty with the US, former National Security Council chief Uzi Arad told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.“Trump came showing political and emotional warmth” at such a strong level that “maybe this is a government which will raise” US-Israeli relations “to new levels, not only on a verbal level, but also institutionally,” Arad said. “Maybe now is the time for the Trump administration and Netanyahu’s government to work on upgrading the relationship between America and Israel into a full and formal alliance” in the form of a defense treaty.The former national security adviser explained that virtually every prime minister, from David Ben-Gurion to Yitzhak Rabin to Netanyahu, has hoped he or she might be the one to finally elevate the US-Israel alliance to a new level.The US is already a strong ally of Israel, and there is even long-range planning in assistance and cooperation between the countries through Memoranda of Understanding.But Israel lacks a formal defense treaty such as the US has with Britain, Canada, Japan and some other countries that creates a legal obligation to come to those counties’ defense if they are attacked and gives automatic benefits not open to easy changes based on political winds, Arad said.He explained there have been two Israeli approaches to trying to achieve a more formal US commitment. The preferable one was a straightforward bilateral treaty. The more roundabout path was to try to become a member of NATO, which would then obligate the US under Article 5 of the NATO treaty to come to Israel’s defense if it were attacked, and in a number of other areas.Arad pointed out that many Eastern European countries currently feel much safer from the threat of Russian invasion since the US must defend them as members of NATO (as opposed to Ukraine which never joined the alliance).
However, Arad views the NATO path as less likely to yield fruit because of almost certain opposition from Turkey, which is a member of NATO.He said besides defense guarantees, either path to a deeper formal defense relationship with the US would also bring benefits in pooling resources and sharing of economic burdens and would create new efficiencies for Israel.Further, he argued that even if Israel is not currently existentially threatened, there is no telling what future threats Israel may face, whether a nuclear Iran, or the next ISIS.Such an achievement would be something concrete to come from a US presidential visit, which while extremely friendly, mostly was highlighted with praise of the Jewish state’s past without making practical promises that could benefit Israel, he said.One area where he said Trump’s visit would likely help would be strengthening US-Israel understandings in addressing challenges from Iran, terrorist groups and their proxies.Turning to the reported Trump leak of classified Israeli intelligence, Arad said that if the president did leak information that could endanger intelligence sources, he assumed that officials of both the US and Israel would take careful action to avoid such a mistake in the future.He emphasized that intelligence cooperation would continue even if the worst case scenario transpired, and an agent was lost, because the two countries’ close cooperation in the war on terror is too vital to halt.Recognizing that such a leak would be an exceptional lapse, Arad said that he was equally concerned that the incident was reported in the US media, as that reporting could have exacerbated the intelligence fallout.
US officials: Trump revealed intelligence secrets to Russia (credit: REUTERS)