It’s a great thing to have a friendly press. You can tally up the list of things you were going to do anyway — programs and measures instituted by your predecessors — and tout them as your own initiatives, and no one will expose what you’re doing. Indeed, a friendly media will obediently retail your narrative for you, accepting your evidence without critical analysis.
The Obama administration, under political fire for straining U.S. ties with Israel, has a friendly press. The latest example is a July 16 Washington Post puff piece on military relations with Israel, entitled “Despite Diplomatic Tensions, U.S.-Israeli Security Ties Strengthen.” The article takes up the administration’s current theme that security cooperation between the U.S. and Israel has never been closer. Only some of it can be substantiated, however, and the verifiable information ends up mostly tracing back to initiatives from the George W. Bush presidency or before.
President Obama and the current Congress are to be credited with the May 2010 decision — referenced in the Post piece — to fund the deployment of Israel’s new “Iron Dome” defense system against short-range rockets. But no other security “tie” listed in the article qualifies as an Obama initiative. High-level exchanges between defense officials, for example, have been frequent for decades. Such exchanges are typical with close allies and would be remarkable only if they were rarer. This reference sounds like a pure filler. Likewise, the sharing of information on vehicle armor and protection against IEDs has been underway for years; U.S. funding was allocated for such cooperation (and related programs) during the Bush administration.
The article alludes to the exercise “Juniper Cobra,” which took place in October 2009, as “the first such exercise involving boots on the ground between the two nations.” But that assertion is simply wrong. Juniper Cobra, a U.S.-Israeli air- and missile-defense drill, has been conducted in alternating years since 2001 and has involved boots on the ground each time. The 2007 iteration involved the smallest number of deployed troops to date, with 500, whereas the 2009 drill featured the largest number: 1000. The scope of the latest exercise is a positive sign about both nations’ seriousness regarding the defense of Israel at a time when the threat from Iran is growing rapidly. But the implication that it represents a strengthening of security ties specific to the Obama administration is invalid.
U.S.-Israeli cooperation in missile-defense development, also listed in the article, is longstanding. The Ynet link above dates back to 2006 the specific exchanges mentioned (cooperation on the David’s Sling and Arrow programs) and the major infusion of U.S. cash. Generic military assistance to Israel under Obama is another talking point: it has remained on the track set for it through 2011 by the Bush administration, increasing from $2.55 billion in 2009 to $2.77 billion in 2010. Annual military assistance to Israel has been higher before, however (e.g., in 2000 and 2003); the Obama figures are healthy but not remarkable.
The stockpile of U.S. ammunition in Israel is part of a U.S. prepositioning program that dates to 1989. As with virtually everything in the Post article, listing the program amounts to interpreting it as a “strengthening of security ties” when longstanding military exchanges do no more than remain in place. If the administration characterized U.S-Israeli security ties as remaining largely un-revoked, in spite of political differences between the current governments, that would be a better reflection of reality — and a wiser thematic approach. The evidence offered for “strengthened” ties is too easy to poke holes in.