For Ukraine, Can The "Israel Model" Be A Viable Alternative To NATO?
The NATO Summit in Vilnius will confirm that Ukraine's entry to join the alliance must be delayed. U.S. President Biden has implied Ukraine could get similar security guarantees and support as Israel. There are clear pros and cons of such a security model, which did not happen overnight.
KYIV — During Joe Biden's recent interview with CNN, in which he said Ukraine cannot join NATO while the war with Russia is ongoing, the U.S. president proposed a possible alternative: Biden said that before Ukraine becomes a member of the alliance, the United States might consider providing Kyiv with security guarantees based on the “Israel Model.”
The Americans understand that there is no consensus in NATO on Ukraine's accession as some countries are still afraid of the prospect of a direct confrontation with Russia. Washington also understands that Moscow will prolong the war just to deter Ukraine's accession to NATO, and even if it loses, Russia will prepare for revenge.
So, the United States is trying to create conditions under which Russia would no longer have a strategic advantage over Ukraine. And yet there's something we need to remember about the history Biden refers to: Israel paid in blood for its current security guarantees, and it took decades for Israeli-American relations to develop to their current state.
In the early days of its independence, while Israel fought several military confrontations with surrounding countries, it received no arms from the Americans. This changed only during the Kennedy administration in the early 1960s when the Israeli defense forces began receiving weapons from Washington, and obtained different security guarantees that have evolved in the decades since.
What is the Israel Model?
Over the past half-century, the United States has been helping Israel defend itself, on multiple levels and across different sectors of the military and society at large.
The U.S. organizes joint training exercises and provides medical equipment, military technology, surveillance systems, training, and counseling. Cooperation also extends to the information front, where both countries exchange sensitive information on the situation in the Middle East. America is helping to build energy infrastructure, including gas pipelines. In addition, the United States provides cyber defense for Israeli facilities. Most importantly, the states create joint defense ventures, and Israel gets access to cutting-edge technologies.
The Israel Model is not only about defense but also about development
All this shows that security guarantees are a multifaceted mechanism encompassing many features. The Israel Model is not only about defense but also about development and constant modernization, which also deters other states from attacking Israel.
John F. Kennedy with former Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion in 1961.
What it would it mean for Ukraine
If Ukraine were to get a similar guarantee for aid in defense, it should work towards having most if not all of these benefits afforded over the years to Israel, but to have them as soon as possible.
Indeed, the current level of Israeli-American cooperation has been crystallizing over decades, as explained to Livy Bereg by several Israeli security experts.
It's key to understand that the United States can use security guarantees not only as a carrot but also as a stick. Some prior White House administrations have put pressure on Israel and threatened to cut off defense support and financial assistance during various wars that Jerusalem waged to defend itself or restore its territorial integrity.
Secondly, while the Israel Model allows Israeli forces to gain superiority in the air, on land, and at sea, disputes often arise between Jerusalem and Washington after the former launched strikes at enemy states. This is similar to how Ukraine is not supplied with weapons that could be used to strike Russian territory.
Israel has found a way out of the situation, however: they produce their own systems, drones, and ballistic missiles and have achieved a certain advantage over the enemy. The Americans will definitely not prohibit Ukraine from creating innovative solutions.
We would require more funding than Israel.
Third, there is the issue of financial support. Israel receives $3.8 billion annually from the United States, not including other support programs. A month of war in Ukraine costs our partners three times as much. In other words, we would require more funding than Israel.
The relations between the United States and Israel do not provide for the latter's membership in NATO. Ukraine is likely to get a hybrid version of this model with some of the benefits that Israel has received, but also because Ukraine might receive security guarantees from NATO members other than the U.S.
Israeli advice for Kyiv
The Israelis have given three pieces of advice on how Ukraine should use security guarantees properly, and not cross the red lines outlined by the United States.
The first is not to be stupid. When Israel received F-16 fighter jets in the early 1980s, it immediately launched strikes on Iraqi nuclear facilities. The United States blocked the delivery of the next batch for more than a year.
The second is not to create situations that would threaten U.S. national interests. When Israel began negotiating defense contracts with the Chinese in the early 2010s, it seriously angered the Americans. Washington closed all security arrangements for several years, imposed strict export controls on Israel, and did everything possible to force the director general of the Defense Ministry to resign. Jerusalem has never resorted to such decisions again. This means that Ukraine will also have to take into account U.S. interests when building its relations with China.
The third is to take seriously the words of the U.S. administration about making transparent and democratic decisions.
The Israel Model cannot become an alternative to NATO for Ukraine. But it is important to understand that it is better to have some security guarantees rather than none.
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