A core component of Israel’s defense, defined by David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, in 1953, is maintaining a qualitative military edge over its regional adversaries. The United States has long been a partner of Israel in helping to maintain that edge. President Ronald Reagan was the first president to explicitly commit to Israel’s qualitative military edge—an assurance that every subsequent administration has repeated. The commitment to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge was only formally written into law in September 2008, with the passage of H.R. 7177, commonly known as “The Naval Vessel Transfer Act of 2008.”
H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, was made a law in early 2012. This law, following a recent Israel-Hamas conflict, further expressed the United States’ support for Israel attaining additional Iron Dome batteries. Consequentially, the legislation “urges the Department of Defense and the Department of State to explore with their Israeli counterparts and alert Congress of any requirements the Israeli Defense Force may have for additional Iron Dome batteries, interceptors, or other equipment.”
H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, was signed into law on January 1, 2013
S. 2165, the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012, was the pronouncement of a deep understanding between the two countries mutual security and stability concerns. Israel is the United States’ most significant security partner and America’s most valuable ally in the Middle East. Israel’s military strength and central geo-strategic location provide a strong deterrent against Iran, Syria and other radical forces opposed to the United States. As such, the legislation reaffirms the enduring commitment of the United States to Israel’s inherent right to self-defense by encouraging further cooperation between the two countries on matters of homeland security, missile defense, intelligence, and cyber-security.
On political and diplomatic issues, this law confirms America’s unwavering commitment to Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. As Section 3 of the law clarifies, it is the policy of the United States to veto any one-sided anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations Security Council while encouraging Israel’s neighbors to recognize Israel’s inherent right to exist as a Jewish States. The United States government will also encourage further development of advanced technology programs between the two countries, and concurrently assist Israel in advancing a peaceful negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In support of this policy, the legislation further clarified U.S. policy and called for the U.S. government to take several considerable actions to bolster Israel’s qualitative military advantage:
- Provide Israel support as necessary to increase development and production of joint missile defense systems
- Provide assistance specifically for the production and procurement of the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system
- Provide Israel with improved defense services, including air refueling tankers, missile defense capabilities and specialized munitions
- Allocate additional weaponry and munitions for the forward-deployed United States stockpile in Israel
- Provide additional surplus defense articles in relation to the United States’ withdrawal from Iraq
- Offer additional training and exercise opportunities for the Israeli Air Force
- Expand Israel’s authority to make purchases under the Foreign Military Financing program.
- Encourage an expanded role for Israel in NATO, politically and militarily
- Expand intelligence sharing and cooperation between the two countries
- Assess how to improve the cost-efficiency and purchasing process for Israel’s procurement of F-35 aircraft.
S. 2165, the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012, was signed into law on July 27, 2012
S. 3847, the Security Cooperation Act of 2010, authorized the expedition of congressional reviews of defense exports to Israel. Following the amendment to the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2751 et seq.) in H.R. 7177, S. 3847 amended the Arms Export Control Act to include Israel in each provision relating to expedited arms sales. This law certified that Israel’s military purchases would be expedited in similar fashion as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, any member country of such Organization, Japan, Australia, the Republic of Korea, and New Zealand.
S. 3847, the Security Cooperation Act of 2010, was signed into law on September 27, 2010
H.R. 7177—the Naval Vessel Transfer Act of 2008—succeeded in implementing Israel’s qualitative military edge as U.S. law. The legislation held several provisions outlining the government’s new responsibility to uphold Israel’s qualitative military edge.
Foremost, the government is required to oversee an empirical and qualitative assessment on an ongoing basis—which is set to be amended to biennially—“of the extent to which Israel possesses a qualitative military edge over military threats.” The United States is required to use this assessment when reviewing arms deals with foreign countries in according with the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2751 et seq.)
The Naval Vessel Transfer Act of 2008 also amended Section 36 of the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2776) by including the following provision:
“Certification Requirement Relating Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge—‘(1) IN GENERAL.—Any certification relating to a proposed sale or export of defense articles or defense services under this section to any country in the Middle East other than Israel shall include a determination that the sale or export of the defense articles or defense services will not adversely affect Israel’s qualitative military edge over military threats to Israel.’”
Additionally, the Resolution also defined “Qualitative Military Edge” in Section 205:
The term ‘‘qualitative military edge’’ means the ability to counter and defeat any credible conventional military threat from any individual state or possible coalition of states or from non-state actors, while sustaining minimal damages and casualties, through the use of superior military means, possessed in sufficient quantity, including weapons, command, control, communication, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities that in their technical characteristics are superior in capability to those of such other individual or possible coalition of states or non-state actors.
H.R. 7177, the Naval Vessel Transfer Act of 2008, was signed into law on October 15, 2008
In addition to the previously stated laws regarding the United States’ support of Israel’s qualitative military edge, there are several legislative pieces currently under review by the U.S. Congress and Senate to consider during the 113th Congressional session. Currently, the administration is working to increase security cooperation between the two countries to “unprecedented” levels, which is reflected in the legislation currently under review. As Barack Obama detailed, “America’s commitment and my commitment to Israel and Israel’s security is unshakable.”
H.R. 938 -The U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act, declares that Israel is a major strategic partner of the United States and was introduced on March 4, 2013.
- Amends the Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012 to extend authority to: (1) make additions to foreign-based defense stockpiles, and (2) transfer certain obsolete or surplus Department of Defense (DOD) items to Israel.
- Authorizes the President to carry out U.S.-Israel cooperative activities and to provide assistance for cooperation in the fields of energy, water, homeland security, agriculture, and alternative fuel technologies.
- Amends the the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to extend the grant program for U.S.-Israeli cooperation on research, development, and commercialization of renewable energy or energy efficiency.
- Expresses the sense of Congress that the United States and Israel should increase cyber-security cooperation.
- Urges the President to provide assistance for enhancement of the David’s Sling Weapon System, the joint United States-Israel Arrow Weapon System, and the Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system.
H.R. 2717, the United States-Israel Missile Defense Cooperation Act of 2013, was introduced on July 17, 2013 in order to authorize additional assistance for Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defense system and cooperation on the David’s Sling, Arrow, and Arrow 3 anti-missile defense systems. The legislation finds that the State of Israel is under grave threat and frequent attacks from missiles, rockets, and mortars from Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah—in addition to potential ballistic attacks from Iran and Syria.
“The United States-Israel missile defense cooperation dates back over two decades with great success, such as the Arrow Weapon System, which is already protecting Israel. These systems are lifesaving, war-preventing and the technologies of the cooperative programs belong to both the United States and Israel.”
As it is in the United States’ own vital national interest to ensure peace and stability in the Middle East, it should support Israel’s ability to protect itself and its civilians against missiles, rockets, and mortars. The House appreciates Israel’s indication of willingness to share the technology of the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system. Acknowledging the recent advancements and successes of the David’s Sling Weapon System, Arrow, and Arrow 3 Weapon System, this legislation authorizes the United States government to provide Israel assistance as requested for their anti-missile defense:
The President, acting through the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State, is authorized to provide assistance, upon request of the Government of Israel, for the procurement of the Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system, as well as authorization for cooperation on the development, maintenance, enhancement, and sustainment of the David’s Sling, Arrow, and Arrow 3 anti-missile defense systems, for the purposes of intercepting short-range, medium-range, and long-range rockets, missiles, and projectiles launched against Israel.
H.R. 1992, to be known as the Israel QME Enhancement Act, was introduced on May 15, 2013 to amend Public Law 110–429—the law previously modified by the Naval Vessel Transfer Act of 2008. This legislation will amend the requirements relating to Israel’s qualitative military threat in order to ensure greater oversight and structure. H.R. 1992 will alter the government’s assessment to be completed on a uniform biennial basis. Additionally, H.R. 1992 requests that the criteria used to assess foreign arms deals include matters of cyber and asymmetric threats.
H.CON.RES. 30, recognizing the 65th anniversary of the independence of the State of Israel, was introduced on April 10, 2013. This resolution confirms America’s unwavering support for the Jewish State of Israel. The resolution praises the two nations’ strengthening relations on matters of defense, diplomacy, homeland security, and technology. In reaffirming the United States’ commitment to ensuring Israel maintains its qualitative military edge, the resolution also emphasizes the United States’ “unequivocal, enduring, and bipartisan support for the alliance and friendship between the United States and Israel.”
H.R. 1130, the Iron Dome Support Act, was introduced on March 13, 2013. This bill commends Israel’s use of the Iron Dome to avert escalating tension in the Middle East, as well as its high success rate. The bill acknowledges that the State of Israel remains under constant threat from missiles, rockets, and mortar shells from Hamas and Hezbollah.
This legislation will explicitly include Hamas and Hezbollah as non-state actors threatening Israel’s qualitative military edge. As a result:
“The United States remains committed to Israel’s qualitative military edge, including its advantage over non-state actors such as Hezbollah and Hamas, which boast increasingly sophisticated and powerful weapons as a result of support from Iran, Syria, and other state actors.”
The Iron Dome Support Act commends Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defense system’s impressive success rate in preventing massive Israeli civilian casualties, while also recognizing the system’s role in averting an escalation of Israeli operations during Operation Pillar of Defense. This bill, with Congressional and Senate approval, will affirm:
“The President, acting through the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State, is authorized to provide assistance, upon request by the Government of Israel, for the procurement, maintenance, enhancement, and sustainment of the Iron Dome defense system for purposes of intercepting short-range and medium-range rockets, missiles, and projectiles launched against Israel.”