There is a significant amount of injustice in the U.S.’s call to sack Defense Ministry Director-General Amos Yaron and the head of the ministry’s New York-based procurement division, Kuti Mor. Few Israeli officials are more attuned to American sensitivities than are these two.
The roots of the current “crisis” between the American and Israeli defense establishments go deeper than what is visible at first glance.
The international system -- and the fact that Israel has hitched its fate to its special relationship with the U.S. -- has changed the very essence of sovereignty. In fact, it is safe to say that the borders of Israel’s sovereignty coincide with the American interest.
The world is complex, life isn’t always fair, some nations are more equal than others, and the U.S. can get away with a lot more than we can.
Therefore, the question of “who is right” is entirely irrelevant. When Israel and the U.S. are in disagreement, as is the case with the current feud over the Israeli weapons sales to China, it is Israel that must change its policy: That’s politics.
The current crisis can be described within a geo-political context: In the past decade, the U.S. has focused its strategic priorities on east Asia, specifically on China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. The monthly journal “Atlantic” dedicated a major portion of its May edition to the military and political rivalry between Washington and Beijing.
During Rumsfeld’s recent visit to Asia he emphasized his inability to understand China’s need for the scale and type of ammunition it possesses.
The U.S. has not been understanding of Israel’s 20-year-old relationship with China. In the 90’s, the U.S. demanded that Israel annul its “Falcon” aircraft deal with China, as China’s acquisition of the surveillance plane would hinder America’s capabilities in case of a military confrontation with China over Taiwan.
Another explanation for the current U.S.-Israel crisis goes to simple economics, or the competition between military industries that produce similar weapons systems for the world’s largest markets.
The American military industry presses the U.S. government for incentives and supports disincentives for competing industries.
The third explanation contends the current crisis is based on bureaucracy, and not on a major row between the countries’ leaderships.
The problem does not stem from the working relationship between Israeli and American government officials, but rather from Israel's exploitation of its accessibility to senior U.S. officials and Congress, which bypasses the lower level ranks.
As Israel’s arms deal was signed with China, and not with Argentina or Poland, it is encountering hostility and intolerance from senior Bush administration officials and congressional committees.
The Americans expect that Israel, above every other country, to be attentive to the U.S.’s agenda.
Therefore, as opposed to past U.S.-Israel disputes, the current disagreement can indeed be defined as a crisis, although it is not as deep some have made it out to be and it is definitely solvable.
The crisis does not require the firing of officials because there was no malice intended or an attempt to avoid accountability. With that said, it would be prudent to refrain from nationalistic-type statements along the lines of “We will stand strong, we will not give up, we are not vassals.”
What is needed now is a return to the working relations of the past, proper disclosure and greater transparency. This may mean “decreased” sovereignty, but it is definitely a price worth paying for “special strategic relations.”
Alon Pinkas is the former Israeli consul-general in New York