Why Trump’s offer of a military alliance with Israel may not work


TEL AVIV — When President Donald Trump announced on Twitter this weekend that he had discussed a possible mutual defense treaty with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it was widely seen as as an effort to bolster an embattled Israeli leader who faces an election Tuesday that could end his political career.

Yet compared to Trump’s pre-election gift to Netanyahu in the April election, when Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights, security experts say this supposed gift is not as beneficial to Israel as it may seem.

“The idea of this treaty has been evaluated many times in Israel in the past,” says Amos Yadlin, Israel’s former head of military intelligence who now leads the Institute for National Security Studies.

The idea was always rejected, he says, because the costs far outweigh the benefits. According to Yadlin, the primary benefit of this treaty, which the U.S. has with many allies, is what’s referred to as NATO Article 5. If a nation is attacked, the other partner nations will come to its assistance. That deterrence factor is highly valuable, he says, because any state or group that attacks Israel would understand that they are also going to war with America.

“Yet the bottom line has always been that even though it would be very helpful to Israel’s deterrence and security,” Yadlin said, “it’s something Israel could not agree to.” This treaty goes both ways, after all. And Israel, a country the size of New Jersey with a population of just 9 million people and currently facing attacks from archenemies in Gaza, Lebanon and Syria, would not be willing or able to come to America’s defense.

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