On December 21st, Glenn Greenwald quoted from The Jewish Daily Forward to make an important point:
While reports have focused on alleged tension between the Obama administration and Israel over the latter’s uncooperative conduct, this is what is actually happening:
Behind the scenes, strategic security relations between the two countries are flourishing. Israeli officials have been singing the praises of President Obama for his willingness to address their defense concerns and for actions taken by his administration to bolster Israel’s qualitative military edge — an edge eroded, according to Israel, during the final year of the George W. Bush presidency.
Among the new initiatives taken by the administration, the Forward has learned, are adjustments in a massive arms deal the Bush administration made with Arab Gulf states in response to Israeli concerns. There have also been upgrades in U.S.-Israeli military cooperation on missile defense. And a deal is expected next year that will see one of the United States’ most advanced fighter jets go to Israel with some of America’s most sensitive new technology.
Amid the cacophony of U.S.-Israel clashes on the diplomatic front, public attention given to this intensified strategic cooperation has been scant. But in a rare public comment in October, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren praised the Obama administration’s response to complaints about lost ground during the close of the Bush years as “warm and immediate.”
“We came to the Obama administration and said, ‘Listen, we have a problem here,'” Oren, told a gathering of the National Jewish Democratic Council. “The administration’s reaction was immediate: we are going to address this issue, we are going to make sure that we maintain your QME [qualitative military edge].”
All of this is being done pursuant to this:
America’s commitment to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge was codified directly into U.S. law via 2008 legislation backed by AIPAC. This legislation requires the president to report to Congress periodically on actions taken by the administration to ensure Israel’s advantage.
I have to confess that I didn’t realize that a law was enacted last year making it a legal requirement for America to maintain “Israel’s qualitative military edge,” and — even more amazingly — that the President of the U.S. is required to report regularly to the U.S. Congress on the steps he’s taking to ensure Israel’s superiority. That’s a rather extraordinary law, and the administration seems to be fulfilling its requirements faithfully.
Update: We tracked down the actual law, 22 USC Sec. 2776, and it appears to mainly be focused on exports of military equipment and services by the U.S.:
ASSESSMENT OF ISRAEL’S QUALITATIVE MILITARY EDGE OVER MILITARY THREATS
Pub. L. 110-429, title II, Sec. 201, Oct. 15, 2008, 122 Stat. 4843, provided that:
“(a) Assessment Required. – The President shall carry out an empirical and qualitative assessment on an ongoing basis of the extent to which Israel possesses a qualitative military edge over military threats to Israel. The assessment required under this subsection shall be sufficiently robust so as to facilitate comparability of data over concurrent years.
“(b) Use of Assessment. – The President shall ensure that the assessment required under subsection (a) is used to inform the review by the United States of applications to sell defense articles and defense services under the Arms Export Control Act (22U.S.C. 2751 et seq.) to countries in the Middle East.
“(c) Reports. –
“(1) Initial report. – Not later than June 30, 2009, the President shall transmit to the appropriate congressional committees a report on the initial assessment required under subsection (a).
“(2) Quadrennial report. – Not later than four years after the date on which the President transmits the initial report under paragraph (1), and every four years thereafter, the President shall transmit to the appropriate congressional committees a report on the most recent assessment required under subsection (a).
“(d) Certification. – [Amended this section.]
“(e) Definitions. – In this section:
“(1) Appropriate congressional committees. – The term ‘appropriate congressional committees’ means the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate.
“(2) Qualitative military edge. – The term ‘qualitative military edge’ has the meaning given the term in section 36(h) of the Arms Export Control Act, as added by subsection (d) of this section [22 U.S.C. 2776(h)].”
As blogger Cryptovariable (who tracked down 22 USC Sec. 2776) describes the law:
Basically what this says is “Review Israel’s military strength every 4 years, and don’t sell the Arabs anything that is better than or the same as what Israel has”. The requirement that arms exports to Arab countries be certified as not “being on par with Israel” is elsewhere in this part of the United States Code. The report basically sets a benchmark for what Israel’s technical capabilities are, so we know what we can and cannot sell to the Arabs.
So we can sell F-35s to Israel, but only F-16s to Kuwait.