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”.