Envoy in Washington claims IDF chief favors mutual defense pact
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Envoy in Washington claims IDF chief favors mutual defense pact

Ambassador Ron Dermer tells security conference that national security adviser and Trump officials also ‘positively inclined,’ despite risks

Israeli paratroopers and US soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment take part in training during the joint Israeli-US military Juniper Cobra exercise at the Tzeelim urban warfare training center in southern Israel on March 12, 2018. (Jack Guez/AFP)
Israeli paratroopers and US soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment take part in training during the joint Israeli-US military Juniper Cobra exercise at the Tzeelim urban warfare training center in southern Israel on March 12, 2018. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Israel’s ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, has said that Israel’s military chief supports forming a mutual defense treaty with the US.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump briefly broached the subject of a mutual defense pact between Jerusalem and Washington ahead of Israeli elections in September, but since then neither side has commented on any possible negotiations.

Speaking to a Washington think tank on Thursday, Dermer said the idea had support from IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, as well as Netanyahu.

Dermer said “senior members” of the Trump administration are also “positively inclined,” as are some “senior senators.”

“There is serious interest on both sides,” Dermer told the Jewish Institute for National Security of America conference. “Such a treaty would provide us with an additional layer of deterrence against the most extreme threats that Israel faces.”

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi delivers a statement to the press after a security cabinet meeting at the Kirya headquarters in Tel Aviv, on November 12, 2019. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The IDF spokesperson’s office refused to comment and there was no reaction from the Trump administration.

Any potential defense pact is seen as highly controversial with the Israeli defense establishment, with officials concerned an accord on tighter defense cooperation could tie the hands of the Israeli military in certain undertakings, or at the very least limit its freedom to act independently.

Given the already robust US-Israel defense cooperation, formalizing it in a mutual defense treaty would bring little to no additional benefit, say many experts, including former top diplomats and defense officials. Instead, these critics warn, it may hamper Israel’s freedom to act militarily and would likely include an obligation to send troops on overseas missions to fight America’s wars.

Dermer admitted there had been serious criticism in Israel of having a defense pact amid “concerns it could inhibit Israel’s freedom of operation.”

Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer speaks at the Omni Shoreham hotel in Washington, DC, June 9, 2017. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images via JTA)

“Israel must never, and will never agree to a defense treaty that ties our hands,” he stated and added that he envisions a “narrow treaty” that serves the defense needs of both sides.

Days before Israel’s September 17 elections, Trump tweeted that he had spoken with Netanyahu on the phone about a potential pact and that he hoped to continue such talks after the vote.

Trump tweeted that such a treaty “would further anchor the tremendous alliance between our two countries.”

However, the elections failed to produce a government and the country seems headed towards a third vote early next year if Knesset members are unable to come together by a December 11 deadline.

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