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With Iran in mind, Israel's security brass warms to US defense pact

After years of objecting to a defense pact with the United States, seniors in the Israeli security establishment are increasingly coming around to the idea.
US Army officers stand in front a US Patriot missile defense system during joint Israeli-US military exercise "Juniper Cobra" at the Hatzor airforce base, Israel, March 8, 2018.

TEL AVIV — There are growing indications that Israel and the United States are formulating a mutual defense pact as part of a hoped-for Saudi-Israeli peace agreement, despite long-held deep-seated Israeli concerns that such a pact with would limit its freedom to act against its enemies.

Successive Israeli army chiefs and experts have opposed a US-Israeli defense pact for decades on the grounds that it would require Israel to consult with the United States before undertaking any military action. Still, high-level discussions are underway now in Israel on a format for such an agreement. 

"What happens if we decide to attack Iran to prevent it from going nuclear, and the Americans do not approve it?" a former chief of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) asked rhetorically three months ago in a conversation with Al-Monitor. "Israel is capable of defending itself by itself, this is the founding principle of our independence, and there is no intention to outsource it."

Since then, however, things have changed. A downgraded format of a mutual defense agreement between Israel and the United States, which would fall short of a NATO-style full defense alliance, is on the agenda in both countries. Israel’s defense establishment appears inclined to back it. 

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