Michèle Flournoy, former U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, spoke on Tuesday at the annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv.
During her remarks, Flournoy spoke of some of the challenges faced by both the United States and Israel in the wake of the changes in the Middle East, and offered some solutions that should be considered.
“We don’t know yet who is going to win Egypt’s runoff elections, but we do know that the Muslim Brotherhood is very well organized and positioned for the race,” she said.
Flournoy noted that it is an important priority to ensure that both Egypt and Jordan remain committed to the peace agreements they signed with Israel, no matter what changes occur in both countries.
She said that “failing to implement these treaties would be disastrous for all parties, not just Israel,” adding that “I think the United States and Israel must engage with new leaders to help them understand the importance and that it’s in their interests to continue to abide by these commitments.”
“The U.S., for its part, should be willing to use our leverage,” said Flournoy. “Whether it’s our security cooperation programs, our influence with regard to international financial institutions and the assistance packages they put together, we need to be prepared to use our influence to ensure that these countries understand that keeping the peace and keeping their obligations to peace is a requirement for their support.”
She called on Israel to continue strategic dialogue with the Egyptian leadership, no matter who ends up being elected, and ensure that military cooperation between the two countries continues in order to control the anarchy in the Sinai Peninsula.
Flournoy stressed the importance of Israel working to repair its strained relations with Turkey.
“This is a really important opportunity for Israel to repair its relationship with Turkey,” she said, adding, “Turkey has emerged in the region as one of the strongest and most influential voices. It remains a close and valued NATO ally for the United States and I believe it does share our interest in preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear weapon state.”
“I understand that past events have made concrete steps towards reconciliation difficult, but if there’s ever a time for Israel to rise above past differences with Turkey, now is that time,” said Flournoy. “Israel must act more strategically, and I think there’s a tremendous opportunity to rebuild its partnership with Turkey.”
Finally, Flournoy addressed the Iranian nuclear issue and, while she stressed that President Obama will take no options off the table, she added, “Any military strike will only delay, not destroy, Iran’s nuclear program. American estimates suggest a delay of one to three years for an Israeli strike.”
“It is something that would buy us time, but it would not by itself solve the problem in any enduring way,” said Flournoy, who cited the INSS paper that was distributed ahead of the conference.
The paper, she pointed out, said a military strike would need to be followed by international pressure on Iran. This means that the international community would need to have supported a military strike in the first place.
“If Israel, or any other country, were to launch a unilateral strike against Iran’s nuclear program prematurely, it would undermine the legitimacy of the action in the eyes of the broader international community and would undermine the ability of the international community to come together for this critical longer term campaign,” said Flournoy.