US Congress takes up new bill to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge

As lawmakers contemplate $350 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, legislation seeks to up coordination with Israel

A US-made F-15 fighter jet flown by the Royal Saudi Air Force (YouTube screen capture)
A US-made F-15 fighter jet flown by the Royal Saudi Air Force (YouTube screen capture)

A bipartisan bill introduced in the US House of Representatives would strengthen the processes that have ensured Israel’s qualitative military edge in the Middle East.

Under the legislation introduced Friday, the president would consult with Israel about its defense needs before authorizing the sale of arms or defense technologies to countries in the Middle East.

Representatives Brad Schneider, a Democrat of Illinois, and Claudia Tenney, a Republican of New York, introduced the Defending Israel’s QME Act of 2017.

Israel is thought to have the most advanced military research and development capabilities in the region, a fact that ensures an Israeli defense advantage in any potential conflict with another regional power. But US arms sales have the capability of altering that balance.

The administration of former US president Ronald Reagan was the first to explicitly adopt a policy of ensuring that US arms sales to the Middle East do not compromise Israel’s qualitative advantage in any potential face-off with other states in the region.

Brad Schneider. (Courtesy/JTA)
Brad Schneider. (Courtesy/JTA)

“The United States must continue to ensure that Israel, our closest, most reliable ally in the Middle East, if not the world, has the tools to maintain its qualitative military edge over those who seek to do it harm,” Schneider said.

The legislation comes as Congress is considering a possible $350 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia that according to media reports came as a surprise to Israeli officials.

The Defending Israel’s QME Act also would expand on existing laws by including non-state actors such as the Islamic State in the assessment of Israel’s military needs.

Claudia Tenney. (Official Congressional photo/public domain)
Claudia Tenney. (Official Congressional photo/public domain)

“With the conflict in Syria, uncertainty regarding Iran, and the growth of ISIS, Israel faces more threats than ever and from all sides,” Tenney said in a statement. “At the same time, the country remains the region’s great democracy and our longstanding ally.

“This bill reaffirms our commitment to Israel’s security by raising the bar for future military sales to other actors in the region.”

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