Alon Pinkas at 12th Herzliya Conference

Fmr. Consul General of Israel Amb. Alon Pinkas at 12th Herzliya Conference: “Israel has lost it’s role as strategic asset (to the US)”


The Middle East’s leading security & policy gathering continues through Feb 2nd at the IDC Herzliya Campus        



Former Consul General of Israel in New York, Amb. Alon Pinkas questioned the Israeli American status quo at the 12th annual Herzliya conference by saying “Israel is not as much a strategic asset as it thinks… but neither is it a burden as the critics say”.  In a panel titled “Israel- A strategic asset for the United States?”  Participants Daniel Shapiro, Ambassador of the United States to Israel and MK Daniel Ayalon, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, were also part of the panel. 


Pinkas elaborated on his point by explaining that “for many years and decades [Israel] has been looking to make itself strategic in this relationship… tried to make itself valuable. Israel has lost its role as a strategic asset but it has strengthened its asset as an ally”. Pinkas then gave an example of a specific relationship between U.S. President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu that is unlike the former relationships between the countries which were usually warmer towards each other. “They obviously do not harm the alliance but somehow it’s not as smooth as it used to be, the dialogue isn’t as fluent”.


Pinkas also added that “Israel has nothing more important from the security perspective than its relationship with the US. This is the asset we should protect. But because there is asymmetry somebody has to make the adjustments and be more sensible. I’m not sure that Israel is making the right effort to help the US help Israel”.


Countering his point was Amb. Daniel Shapiro who replied that “I took the title of the panel with a little of the curiosity that there should be a question mark after it. For me it’s statement, a fact that does not require a debate”.  Not only is Israel an asset, in Amb Shapiro’s opinion, but an ally as well “What makes us allies are the common interests that we have. Clearly we share common goals and common enemies”.


Shapiro felt the need to clarify to the audience that the United States “make these commitments not out of charity, we stand with Israel as a fellow democracy at times threatened by non democratic countries”  and that the US will “help insure that Israel remains a strong democratic state”. He also stressed the point that “the relationship [between Israel and the US] has grown… we have strategic cooperation… we invested tens of billions of dollars in Israel, we have the US Israel defense cooperation”.




Amb Shapiro furthered this point by adding that “the president (Obama) said the bond between us is unbreakable”. While he admitted that “our interests are not identical” Shapiro assured the audience that “we have common goals and this shows a healthy and strong relationship”.


When asked how Israel has in fact helped the US, Amb. Shapiro replied with the example of Iran and terrorist organizations that threaten both of us. I assure you that our understanding… is dramatically enhanced by Israel’s coordination”. He also added that “we’re (Israel and the US) extraordinarily well coordinated. This is what should be happening between two allies… that share a threat”.  


MK Ayalon Agreed with Amb. Shapiro and added that during this time “our battle is with radical Islam and here not only are we an asset but we intensified the manner in which the US needs us as a partner”. Furthermore, Ayalon said with pride that “In contrast with the other countries in the world they [Israel] never asked American troops to come and fight instead of them. There are no American troops in Israel, Israel will fight for itself”.


When asked what the future holds for this relationship, Shapiro replied that “I don’t see a threat…I see continuity. At times we have debates between our leaders… but even when we have debates, the foundations of the relationship are never put into question”. Shapiro concluded by saying that “we each have an interest in each other’s success and it’s in Israel’s interest that the US be seen as a leader… the defining characteristic is that we each further each other’s interest”. For his conclusion, Pinkas chose to clarify what Israel is to the US as he said that “never has an American president used the term “strategic asset”, they may have used “unbreakable alliance” or “unwavering commitment”… and we shouldn’t be sorry for that.” Because in Pinkas’s opinion, not only is Israel not a strategic asset to the US but rather “the US is the strategic asset to Israel”.