Upholding Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME) as a Supreme Value


By Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilead  | August 28, 2020

Photo: Israel Defense Forces | CC BY-SA 3.0


The normalization agreement expected to be signed between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a historical strategic achievement, even a dramatic one. As a result, a tangled set of 'under-the-table' relationships will be transformed into a 'marriage' visible to all. The UAE is a first-rate polity in an array of fields, and the two countries can be expected to gain a lot from establishment of formal diplomatic relations between them.


Abu Dhabi, the leader of the UAE, has a very impressive security doctrine upon which it has established a strong army and air force. They have proved their worth in a host of military operations, including places distanced from the Persian Gulf. The United Arab Emirates has equipped itself with the world's most advanced weapons systems and aircraft, first and foremost, ones made in America, and they have been deployed successfully in a very wide operations radius.


Israel and the Arab states, including the UAE share the same view of Iran – as a strategic, even existential enemy. On one hand, Iran derives economic advantage from its ties with the UAE, but on the other hand it is no secret that Iran would be happy to dominate the Arab states along the Persian Gulf, was it not deterred from doing so for a host of reasons.


As a central core in its national security doctrine, Israel must invest a supreme effort in developing and deepening its security ties (and other ties) with the Arab countries. Israel deserves high marks in this area, which also contributes to its ability to focus on dealing with the Iranian threat to Israel.
The fact is, Israel enjoys unprecedented stability in the security realm which rests on the potency of the IDF as well as the image of the overall military might Israel projects. The Arab states after trying and failing to annihilate Israel in wars, came to the conclusion that erasing the Jewish state is not in the cards, and it would be better to partner with Israel in a host of areas, first and foremost security-wise, as well as militarily and politically.


But Israel must not for a minute forget that any weakening of its position of power is liable in the long run to pull the rug out from under Israel's feet, and therefore there is an interesting and important nexus between its power projection , and the United States continuing to be committed to safeguarding Israel's Qualitative Military Edge. This commitment is deeply anchored – was written into law, saying that the United States is committed to ensuring Israel will always have a "Qualitative Military Edge" (QME). In practice, the United States will refrain from selling advanced and sophisticated weapons systems to Arab countries even when they have peaceful relations with Israel. A concrete example of this is the F35 that the IAF acquired in recent years. The F35 is, in essence, a platform of multidimensional and sophisticated weapons systems that provides Israel with overwhelming superiority.


Therefore the United States has stated – publically as well – that it has no intention of selling these warplanes to Arab countries despite the economic temptation to do so. In the intelligence realm there are two pillars: The intent and capabilities of the other side. Alas, intentions are fluid and can be subject to rapid change: Threat capability is a slow-built process, but such capabilities become a significant threat when they change.


For example, Turkey was a 'sister country' of Israel and today it is a strategic rival. Iran was a 'bosom buddy' of Israel, and today is a bitter and dangerous enemy. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood's takeover of the regime came suddenly and almost created a hostile bloc with Turkey against Israel. It was a matter of good fortune that President el-Sisi saved Israel from a broad and significant strategic threat.


In discussions I held with Arab colleagues who I greatly respect, I have been asked more than once: Why Israel opposes a power equilibrium between itself and the Arab states? And why does Israel go to all lengths to maintain a qualitative edge? The answer I gave was always that as long as we Israelis maintain our qualitative edge, the deeper the stability and resilience of the peace between us will be. Unfortunately, this is the essence of the Middle East political reality!


The core message for today that arises from the above axiom is that Israel must prevent ?? the sale of F35s to any county in the Middle East, and reserve this power (and similar technologies) for itself. That is the formula for safeguarding the peace and ensuring long-term stability in the Middle East.




Authored by Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilead, head of the Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS)



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