Israel's QME (Qualitative Military Edge) – a ten-year, $30 billion dollar American commitment

Now that George Mitchell has returned to the region (meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu today, tomorrow in Ramallah to speak with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, etc.) we are waiting for some new American move — other than just urging the return to direct talks as soon as possible.

Can it be just coincidence that Andrew J. Shapiro Assistant Secretary [of State?] for Political-Military Affairs made a presentation at the Brookings Saban Center for Middle East Policy in Washington today?

His topic: “The Obama Administration’s Approach to U.S.-Israel Security Cooperation: Preserving Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge”.

He got straight to the point: “our security relationship with Israel is broader, deeper and more intense than ever before. Just last week, President Obama met with Prime Minister Netanyahu and stated that ‘Israel has unique security requirements’. President Obama has ensured that his Administration fully recognizes those requirements, and we have redoubled our commitment to meeting them. Indeed, as Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs, one of my primary responsibilities is to preserve Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge, or QME”.

Shapiro told his audience that “we’re preserving Israel’s QME through an unprecedented increase in U.S. security assistance,  stepped up security consultations, support for Israel’s new Iron Dome defensive system, and other initiatives. We recognize that today Israel is facing some of the toughest challenges in its history … Israel is a vital ally and a cornerstone of our regional security commitments”.

A special promotional email sent out by the State Department tonight to draw attention to Shapiro’s prepared remarks stated that: Israel is the leading beneficiary of U.S. security assistance funds for military training and equipment.  This year, Congress fully funded the Obama Administration’s $2.775 billion security assistance request for Israel — the largest security assistance request for Israel in U.S. history … The United States has committed for more than 30 years to helping Israel maintain its qualitative military edge – defined in terms of Israel’s ability to counter and defeat credible military threats from any individual state, coalition of states or non-state actors, while sustaining minimal damage or casualties. In 2008, this longstanding policy was written into law, and has since become the cornerstone of the U.S.-Israeli security relationship

In his speech, Shapiro actually counted Iran as a threat twice — once for its nuclear program [note: he did not say nuclear weapons program], and once for posing (as did Syria, he said) a significant conventional challenge.

Hizballah and Hamas, he said, pose “asymmetrical threats”, through indiscriminate rocket fire that targets Israeli population centers, and extensive arms struggling operations “many of which originate in Tehran and Damascus, weaken regional security and disrupt efforts to establish lasting peace between Israel and its neighbors”.

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U.S. State Dept: we did not pressure the Palestinians on Goldstone report

The U.S. did not “pressure” the Palestinian leadership to withdraw a resolution that was to have been submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva last week offering support for the conclusions contained in the Goldstone report on last winter’s war on Gaza. At least, this is what the US. State Department spokesperson, Ian Kelly, told reporters — in response to their questions — at the regular daily briefing in Washington on 5 October:

QUESTION: Can I ask about the Goldstone report? On Friday, the Palestinian Authority agreed in Geneva to go ahead and put – defer a vote for it to go to the Human – UN Human Rights Council. What role specifically did the United States play in pressuring the Palestinian Authority to make that decision?

MR. KELLY: Well, I don’t know if I would accept your characterization of pressuring. I think that we recognized that we had serious concerns with the recommendations and some of the allegations. We felt very strongly that while these investigations should be investigated and addressed, that we thought on the one hand that Israel had the kind of institutions that could address these allegations. And of course, we urged Israel to address these very serious allegations. But I think we had a broader concern that we didn’t want the report to distract us from our ultimate goal, which was to address the root causes of the tragic events of last January, and that’s the lack of a regional and lasting peace between the two parties – between the Israelis and the Palestinians. So we were concerned that we stay focused on that ultimate goal. And we are not saying that the allegations in the report – we’re not saying that they should be ignored. We simply do not want the report itself to become any kind of impediment to this ultimate goal. We appreciate the seriousness with which the Palestinians approach this very, very difficult issue, and we respect this decision to defer discussion of the report to a later date for the reasons that I just stated – that we want to make sure that we stay focused on the ultimate goal here.

QUESTION: You say you respect the Palestinians’ decision?


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U.S. State Department says Richard Falk's views are "biased"

The U.S. State Department spokesman told journalists on Monday that the current official U.S. position is that the views of the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, U.S. Professor Richard Falk, are “not fair”, and are in fact “biased”.

But, the State Department spokesman said, the U.S. believed that investigations into what happened in Gaza — into Israel’s conduct of the 22-day Operation Cast Lead — should go forward. But, they should be unbiased.

Here is a full transcript, as provided by the State Department:

“QUESTION: Does the United States support the call by the UN rapporteur Professor Falk before the UN Human Rights Council for an independent inquiry into possible war crimes in Gaza by both Israel and Hamas?

MR. WOOD: Look, we’ve expressed our concern many times about the special rapporteur’s views on dealing with that question, and we’ve found the rapporteur’s views to be anything but fair. We find them to be biased. We’ve made that very clear.

QUESTION: But my question is: Do you support the call that was also echoed by Archbishop Tutu and Amnesty International to call for an independent inquiry – committee of inquiry into possible war crimes?

MR. WOOD: Well, as I’ve said to you before, those types of investigations with regard to where there are charges being made, whether it being it’s one side or the other, there will be, I’m sure, people, organizations will be looking into these. And we need to let those go forward. I don’t have anything further beyond that.

QUESTION: In the framework of the Human Rights Council?

MR. WOOD: I’m just saying – I’ve already spoken to, I think, our view about the Human Rights Council, certainly to the UN special rapporteur’s role, and we viewed them as biased. And I don’t have anything further to add to that.

QUESTION: Wait, I just want to make sure I understand. You do – you support an investigation into war crimes?

MR. WOOD: No. I’ve said – you are trying to twist my words.

QUESTION: No, no, no, I’m not.

MR. WOOD: What I said —

QUESTION: I’m trying to make sure I understood what you just said.

MR. WOOD: What I said was —

QUESTION: You said there are going to be calls and inquiries.

MR. WOOD: I said there will be calls and —

QUESTION: And that they should go ahead.

MR. WOOD: No, no, no. What I —

QUESTION: I’m not trying to twist your words. I just want to make sure I understood what you said.

MR. WOOD: What I was trying – what I’m saying here is that you’re going to have these types of investigations and calls for, you know, there to be investigations, whether it be of one side or the other. And that’s likely to be something that will happen, and that’s not going to be anything that we’re going to be able to do – excuse me, to prevent. What we want to see, if there are going to be these types of investigations, they need to be non-biased. They need to take into account the situations on the ground, the realities on the ground, and go from there” …