A flood of irritating quotes caused by a proposed F-15 deal

(The Defensetech blog has an article about the proposed sale of 84 F-15s to Saudi-Arabia and Israel's reaction, based on a WashPost interview with Israel's secretary of defence. The interpretation of that interview by DT author Greg Grant is one of many possible interpretations of what Barak said.)

My first thought when I saw this

Israel Wants Missile Shield Money, JSF Tech To Not Oppose Saudi F-15 Sale

headline at the DT blog was "Wow, that would be brazen".
I am, of course, accustomed to the idea that a sovereign nation doesn't need the permission of another nation for such a decision.

The article body has more to offer, though. This

In an interview with the Washington Post last week, Barak evoked Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME), suggesting that Saudi Arabia’s acquisition of dozens of brand new F-15 fighters could tilt the regional military balance.

repeats what I read elsewhere. Again, I was a bit irritated that there's actually an acronym worth to mention for this - "QME". That's the only acronym for a foreign nation's national security strategy that I recall at the moment (IRATM).

It's also a bit irritating to see how the "qualitative edge" gets associated with hardware only. Weren't the Israelis supposed to be super pilots, the Israeli industry to be good with EW equipment and Arabs supposed to suck at warmaking in general?
Aren't these supposed F-15 sales simply replacements for worn-out 1980's F-15's of Desert Storm fame?

Quoteworthy material kept coming:

Israel isn’t in a position to dictate who the U.S. sells advanced weaponry to, Barak said; although it really is. If Israel so desires, it can mobilize its powerful allies in Congress to hold up arms sales to Arab nations, especially when it’s something as big as the sale of 84 F-15s.

I guess it'll take a few more years till I can understand how a nation which perceives itself as the sole superpower can treat an issue like this as normal. Another government has decisive influence on your legislative (government?) in regard to specific bills?
Granted, that's not really news in this case. Nevertheless, it's an astonishing tail-wags-dog stunt. The tail isn't even connected to the dog, but thousands of miles apart!

It sure sounds like Israel wants some kind of technology transfer in the deal.

This is also ranging from noteworthy to brazen, considering how often I've heard and read complaints from Americans about how willingly Israel supposedly transferred military high tech to the PR China.

There are surely hundreds of mosaic pieces in the full story and to put

them all together and to filter misinformation out would require a huge effort. The picture as it shows itself in the recent reports (and earlier ones) is nevertheless a quite irritating one.

The greatest human strength and weakness at once is the ability to get used to almost everything. This is such a case where I can only shake my head and turn away, assuming that a couple hundred million people are already used to the documented behaviour and many of them don't see anything disturbing in it.

Israel seems to make great profit in its "special relationship" with the U.S. - unlike the UK. Maybe the Brits should ask Israel for a lesson? Spending blood side-by-side with U.S. G.I.s doesn't seem to buy nearly as much influence on U.S. policy as a few million $ lobbyism money. You might even get the spent money back - hundredfold!


P.S.: Maybe Israel has a similar special relationship with Germany, but that's for sure more sporadic, less institutionalised and less brazen. Germans are used to allow others to influence German legislation - in a multialteral cooperation called the EU that gives us the ability to influence their legislation as well. An open statement from another government that implies the ability to decisively influence a Bundestag voting is as far as I can tell well above the scandal threshold in Germany.



  1. Make hay when the sun shines.
    If Israel can leverage a technology transfer out of a Saudi arms purchase, why shouldnt it?

    Its not the first time Israel has blocked advanced arms sales, Egypt wanted some AWACS aircraft but the IDF complained that all of Egypts military exercises use Israel as the target.

    As you rightly point out, the US complains when Israel transfers EW tech to China, I'd view this under the same lens.

    One Final Note
    "Barak: I do not pretend to be able to shape American policy."

    All that said, theres not much stopping the Saudis buying another 84 Typhoons or even some of those suk35's if they're offered dumbed down F15's.

  2. Keeping Israel's "qualitative military edge" is U.S. law since 2008:

    Barak is lying when he says he is not able to shape American policy. Israel does it all the time via its lobby.

  3. While I concur with your analysis on the sometime absurdity of the US-Israeli relationship (tho it goes both ways... The US profits too), I have been sometimes surprised at the general level of support from Germany, particulary visible in the ways of weapon exports.

    For example, the Dolphin-class subs which ensures the Israeli nuclear deterrance were german built. There may be other examples.

    Is this some sort of residual guilt from the holocaust, to gain favour with the US, or just an economic thing? Don't mean to sound insulting or rude, I'm genuinely curious about how this plays in Germany (if people care at all of course).

  4. Well, sometime in 1990 it was suddenly newsworthy the German industry had delivered tools that Saddam had supposedly used to produce chemical weapons and well, he started to send Scuds to Israel in 1991.
    The Kohl administration panicked, expected a substantial damage to Germany's reputation and sent Patriot batteries to Israel - another part of the reaction was iirc also that Israel got some Dolphins - which served at the same time as a kind of subsidy to the shipyard.

    The Dolphin story is not exactly popular among those Germans who know about it.

    More relevant today are the links of BND and Bundeswehr (especially the Heer) with Israel. That attention is based on the fact that Israel had a lot of action and a lot to tell - the Heer also needed some reality checks after generations in peace (Cold War).
    This role of Israel may decrease in the near future because of the Iraq/AFG experiences. There's an increased interest in Israel's UAVs, though.

  5. The Iraq-Scud connection sounds probable, but the scale of it all is kind of baffling. I mean, loads of people were exporting stuff to Saddam at that time.

    This tidbit from a recent Haarez article found via the blog Newwars:

    "Germany funded more than 80 percent of the cost of Israel's first three Dolphin submarines in the 1990s, and is currently accounting for a third of the cost of two more submarines being manufactured in Germany."

    That's some subsidy! And there seem to be no real strings attached. The Yanks demand a say in all kinds of things, but the Germans don't (can't?). Rather puzzling to an outside observer anyway (to connect to the theme of the post).

    Full article at: http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/report-germany-reconsiders-funding-israel-s-latest-submarine-1.303095

  6. We don't do any offset agreements for arms exports. A 33% subsidy is uncommon, but not exactly a net cost. Half of the contract volume ends up as additional tax income, after all.

    There was probably even a net benefit on the order of € 50-100 million for Germany's federal budget in the subsidy for the last two SSKs.

  7. "Barak is lying when he says he is not able to shape American policy. Israel does it all the time via its lobby."

    Does the UK government control the US?
    No it does not.

    But if Argentina requested 60 F15's, 6 AWACs and a multitude of air to air and air to ship weaponry, the UK government would do much as the Israeli government just did, and the order would almsot certainly be pulled.

    Allies co-operate, sometimes its in the open, sometimes its behind closed doors, sometimes one side acts in the open and the other acts primarily in the dark, sometimes people just dont want to see.

    If we stick with the Israel/Egypt example, it wasnt that long ago Egypts strongest brigade was allowed to march out of the Sinai unmolested, when Israel could have easily destroyed or captured it in totality, with little loss.

    Why was such an event allowed to occur?
    Incompetance on the part of the IDF?
    Heavenly Shield raised by a cohort of angels?
    Not that either
    A "request" by the US that the IDF stand down and allow the Egyptian army to leave unharmed.
    Thats the one.

    Hardly tail wagging dog is it?
    I can just imagine the conclave of jews sat around a fire
    "Ha ha ha ha, we've suffered a surprise attack in which we took heavy losses we can ill afford in both aircraft and tanks, we have finaly turned the tide and cut off the advancing army which will die of dehydration within days, we can lay siege until they die, assault them in a couldron battle or we can take them prisoner en masse to work as slave labour in our fields"
    High Jew
    "No, we will use our puppet state the United States to order us to allow them to return home in good armour with arms intact, this will make no sense to anyone and is a completely stupid decision that benefits us in no way"

    In reality, the US ordered the IDF to release the besiged forces, the USSR lost a great deal of prestige and influence in the region, and the Israelis got lots of fancy new toys to play with as a back hander.
    Everyone wins
    The US stuffs its biggest enemy
    The Egyptian Army doesnt lost the majority of its combat troops
    Israeli gets some new toys that make it securer than it would have been had it destroyed Egypt.

    Interesting stuff on the arms exports.

  8. Well Dominic, we both know there's more in the relationship than occasional consultations about whether a deal is too bad for a region or not.

    I'm again and agan irritated by the use of the word "allies"/"ally". The German translation is "Verbündete(r)" and it has a limited meaning in regard to states: It's about formal allies. Those who have a treaty that they would defend each other.
    As far as I know Israel is not a "Verbündeter" of the U.S. while Turkey for example is one.

    There's also "Waffenbruder" (brother in arms) for countries cooperating in war against a common enemy (such as Germany and Finnland in 1941-1944) without relevant formal ties.

    In English, everybody seems to call friends or countries you make deals with "allies".
    This inflationary use of the word is remarkable. It could distort the perception of reality quite much. It could also lead to unnecessary participation inw ars and unnecessary expenditures.

  9. Regarding terminology of Allies.

    Always nice to see someone who values and appreciates, proper terminology.

    “If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. Hence there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything.”

  10. Sven
    I suppose I could only argue that perhaps the translation isnt very good.

    Although ally can mean a formal alliance, that can range from a combined headquarters and a single supreme commander to simply a declaration that war on one is war on both.
    However, if you stick allied into MS word, you get synonyms like associated, similar and aligned.

    If you have broadly the same goals, then you are in a de facto alliance, if not a de jure one.

    France for example had no formal alliance with the UK from the early 50's till very recently, yet supplied the UK with military intelligence on the anti shipping capabilities of the Argentine Airforce.
    There was broad agreement on the idea that overseas territories of european powers could not be lost, because if one fell, the rest would be seized.

  11. That's wrong. France was a NATO member all the time. It just didn't submit its forces to NATO command for several decades.

  12. Call it whatever you want, to my mind actions speak a lot louder than words on a paper. And while they may have no formal "Ally" status, what's to say that there aren't a raft of secret agreements underneath it all? That's what Sweden got for giving up its pursuit of nukes in the 60:ties, hidden up until just recently.

    Regardless, the US and Israel has got a symbiotic relationship in the middle east. For Israel, survival. For the US, an useful proxy and listening-post. And that's before considering all the intangibles such as romantic feelings over the Zionist project (somewhat resembling the quite muscular Hellenism pursued by certain Europeans at the beginning of the last century...).

    Anyway, talking about "International Norms and Terminology" in the same breath as the behavior of "Superpowers" will always get you in trouble. They make up their own (ever-changing) rulebook, and you're not allowed see it.

  13. "Germans are used to allow others to influence German legislation - in a multialteral cooperation called the EU that gives us the ability to influence their legislation as well"

    Really. How? Please define the exact mechanism by which Germany has control over the EU.

  14. Sven
    My mistake, I thought they actualy quit.
    Still, they had no NATO mandate to act in the South Atlantic

  15. @James:
    I wrote "influence", not "control".

    Germany contributes bureaucrats to EU institutions and it has a vote on the common decisions (the EU gives many guidelines for national legislation) - rights that are mirrored by other member's rights.

    Germany and France often combine their influence to push the EU in certain directions. This is an unofficial thing and only possible because
    a) the UK is not decisively involved in EU affairs
    b) Italy's governments were unable of long-term strategy because they were too short-lived