According to a recent assessment prepared by the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Israel, there are growing reports of progress toward a possible normalisation of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, as part of a broader set of agreements between Saudi Arabia and the United States. Recent talks between Washington and Riyadh raised the possibility that the two countries might sign a defence treaty, which is one of Saudi Arabia’s demands.
“This in turn raises once again the question of a defence treaty between Israel and the United States, on the assumption that it would be difficult for the United States to provide such a security guarantee to Saudi Arabia alone,” mentions the assessment report.
According to the report, a defence treaty between Israel and the United States would be the ultimate expression of the “special relationship”, formally establishing the relationship as part of their national strategies and ensuring its longevity. “A defence treaty with the United States would strengthen Israel’s deterrence against its rivals and deepen their awareness of the long-term American commitment to Israel’s existence, potentially necessary guarantees in the event that Iran goes nuclear and even more so should a Middle East with multiple nuclear actors emerge.”
The opposition to a defence contract with the US rests primarily on the fear that Israel will lose its freedom of action and would be bound by a reciprocal commitment to assist the United States around the world and support its global policy, for example, toward China, Russia, and Ukraine, says the report.
“However, in practice, the cooperation between Israel and the United States is already so deep that Israel rarely takes any military or political actions of consequence without first consulting with the United States, and in practice, seeking its approval. Already today Israel supports the United States’ global policy. As an official ally, Israel’s access to advanced American weaponry and unique technologies would be guaranteed for the long term, thereby maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge over time.”
The report includes some recommendations. One major one is that the treaty must anchor the US commitment to Israel’s qualitative military advantage (QME) and address the issue of future military aid. Israel must ensure that the parties’ rights to act in self-defence and according to their legal processes are preserved, as is customary in these treaties, thereby leaving an opening for some independent action in exceptional cases.