Congress bill to ensure Israel's qualitative military edge

Bipartisan House bill would ensure that Israel has the tools to maintain its qualitative military edge.

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Elad Benari,

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A bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives will strengthen the processes that have ensured Israel’s qualitative military edge.

The legislation was introduced Friday, according to the JTA news agency. It stipulates that the president would be required to consult with officials in the Israeli government about their defense needs before authorizing arms sales or defense items to countries in the Middle East.

Reps. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., and Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y., introduced the bill, entitled “Defending Israel’s QME Act of 2017”.

“The United States must continue to ensure that Israel, our closest, most reliable ally in the Middle East, if not the world, has the tools to maintain its qualitative military edge over those who seek to do it harm,” Schneider said.

The legislation comes as Congress is considering a possible $350 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia that has caused U.S. and Israeli leaders to question the future of Israel’s qualitative military edge in the Middle East.

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) expressed concern over the deal, saying, "This is a matter that really should trouble us. We have also to make sure that those hundreds of billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia will not, by any means, erode Israel's qualitative edge, because Saudi Arabia is still a hostile country without any diplomatic relations and nobody knows what the future will be."

A senior American official later sought to ease Israeli concerns, saying that Washington understands Israel's "completely legitimate" concerns, while pledging to help the Jewish state maintain its military advantage.

"We're taking a whole bunch of measures, some apparent some not so apparent, to ensure Israel's qualitative military edge. That will in no way be compromised," the official said.

The Defending Israel’s QME Act also would expand on existing laws by including non-state actors such as the Islamic State (ISIS) in the assessment process. The Reagan administration was the first to explicitly commit to Israel’s qualitative military edge.

“With the conflict in Syria, uncertainty regarding Iran, and the growth of ISIS, Israel faces more threats than ever and from all sides,” Tenney said in a statement. “At the same time, the country remains the region’s great democracy and our longstanding ally.”

“This bill reaffirms our commitment to Israel’s security by raising the bar for future military sales to other actors in the region,” added Tenney.