Coteret: Yediot’s defense analyst on the looming US-Israel ’security catastrophe’

Didi Remez, at Coteret, posts a translation of an article in Yediot today. The article is by Alex Fishman, who is second to none in Israel for providing important and keen insight into the thinking of Israel’s security establishment.

Fishman gives an enormous amount of background into the wheeling and dealing between US and Israeli leaders over the past few months around the bizarre gift the US has offered to Israel in exchange for a mere 90-day settlement moratorium. He also explains just how Bibi maneuvered the US into it and how he subsequently found himself in a trap alongside the one he snared Obama in.

An absolute must-read. I include a few excerpts from Coteret’s translation below, but do read the article in full

“People in the Ministry of Defense are worried. The National Security Council, headed by Uzi Arad, department officials were informed, is quietly preparing a position paper on a uniquely sensitive subject: an Israeli proposal for a strategic defense alliance with the United States. It turns out that the IDF is really not interested in the deal, which would mean among other things significant limitations on Israel’s independent ability to act against threats near and far.”

“…Netanyahu promised the public that if there are no gifts — there will be no negotiations; the Americans don’t know what gifts he’s talking about, and now Israelis are racking their brains trying to figure out how to word a statement that will get the prime minister out of the trap he got himself into. So they are talking about the possibility that the Americans will give a grant that will cover part of the cost of 20 aircraft, with the rest to come out of Israel’s foreign aid package. In any event we are only talking about 2017. In the meantime, Israel-Palestinian talks are frozen.”

“It took several months until we understood that he (Jones) was serious and started to cooperate with him. And eventually, as Obama was poised to take office, he produced a terrific paper in which he set out the fundamental security problems facing Israel and the possible solutions. The Jones document spoke of three circles of threat: the circle of terrorism, the circle of nearby enemy nations and the third, outer circle of strategic threats, including the question of Iran and the nuclear bomb.”

“…today: information sharing with the Americans about the Iranian threat, for example, is broader and deeper than it has ever been. The Americans have also expanded the amount of military equipment they store in Israel from $800 million to $1.2 billion, the F-35 deal is on the way and Israel got weapons the US previously resisted giving.”

“…Barak and Deputy National Security Advisor Dennis Ross traded drafts of an agreement, and the issue of additional planes was also brought up. The Americans weren’t shocked, but nothing was written into the agreement because the president could not have agreed to such a gift on the eve of Congressional elections. At the end of the day they made a deal: Israel would extend the settlement construction freeze for three additional months and the American government would commit itself to continued Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley for many years to come. The Americans also promised this would be the final building freeze, that it would not include Jerusalem, and an American promise to veto any Palestinian attempt to gain recognition for statehood at the UN Security Council.

“But then came the “but.” The last section of the agreement, that 20-year security deal, suddenly became conditional: it would come to fruition only after Israel reaches a final-status agreement with the Palestinians. Rather, the connection between political negotiations and Israel’s upgraded military ability, it is hard to forget, Netanyahu himself created at that fateful meeting in July, at which he promised Obama he would surprise him on the diplomatic front.”

“As if that were not enough, now Netanyahu is doing them another trick and is sticking another stick in the negotiation wagon’s wheels: he wants all these understandings in writing, as a public commitment.

“Netanyahu cannot be blamed of lacking understanding of how things work with Washington. No administration will sign a document that gives IDF soldiers the possibility of remaining in the Jordan Valley for decades more. This could be a term in the framework of an “ understanding” that the US would support in an Israeli demand of the Palestinians.

“Furthermore, demanding of the Americans that they sign a document that states that they agree that there will be no freeze in Jerusalem means breaking all the game rules. The US administration can look the other way when there is solid construction in greater Jerusalem, but to sign on this in a public document? After all, this is contrary to this US administration’s and previous administrations’ avowed policy.”

“So now both sides, the Israeli and the American, are doing all sorts of phraseology acrobatics that will make it possible to come up with a paper that summarizes the understandings. The Americans are now beginning to say that after an agreement in some sort of paper is reached, Netanyahu will come up with another excuse in order not to make progress.

“And so the time passes. In the meantime, there is no talk about a crisis in Israel-US relations, but rather a malfunction. If this goes on, the malfunction is liable to turn into a diplomatic catastrophe, if not a security catastrophe.”