Last week, the United States and Israel signed a new $38 billion 10-year security Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the largest military assistance package the U.S. has ever pledged to another country. This historic arrangement underscores America’s support for Israel’s security, the bedrock of the strategic relationship between the two countries.
Given the outsized role that this agreement has played out in the press, it is easy for supporters of the U.S.-Israel relationship to view it exclusively in terms of security. The relationship, however, is becoming increasingly complex, multifaceted, and driven by shared interests beyond the battlefield.
The same week that the U.S. and Israel signed the military pact, the U.S. Senate passed the Water Resources Development Act, which would authorize the government to build new water infrastructure projects across the United States. Within the bill, a provision directs the Secretary of the Interior to leverage the experience of Israel in developing desalination projects. Israel has been chronically water-starved – much like the drought-stricken states in the southwestern U.S. – but through innovative technology like desalination, a process that separates salt from seawater, Israel now gets a quarter of its water from the Mediterranean Sea.
Israel has a booming water technology sector, a nationally-coordinated water management system, and over decades, Israel has adopted smart solutions from crop irrigation to catching leaks in water systems. The governors of California, Texas, Arizona, and Nevada have all visited Israel in search of new partnerships that will help their own states with water management.
Our bilateral cooperation in this arena is just beginning, but is full of opportunity. In fact, the U.S. Chamber is hosting a major U.S.-Israel water summit in Las Vegas in December to help catalyze a much closer relationship. Corporate executives, governors, mayors, and leading academics will be coming together to share best practices in water stewardship.
Also last week, the House Homeland Security Committee sent two bills to the full House of Representatives for consideration focused on advancing U.S.-Israel cybersecurity cooperation. These initiatives map out ways that the two countries can collaborate on research and development, share best practices, and build new partnerships aimed at protecting our critical infrastructure.
Cybersecurity touches virtually every part of our economy from the banking system to industrial control systems. Last year, 20% of the global investment into cyber technologies went to Israel. Hardly a week goes by without news of yet another major company acquiring a new Israeli start-up.
Just last week, Volkswagen announced a new partnership with an Israeli firm to create an automotive cybersecurity business. This follows new investments in Israel by Ford, GM, and BMW over the past several months. As our lives, businesses, and economies continue to intertwine with technology that enables greater productivity, it’s imperative that we stay mindful of accompanying vulnerabilities. Given recent high-profile security breaches, ensuring cyber safeguards is not only a critical priority for CEOs, but it’s increasingly a matter of national security.
These are just a few examples of U.S. government and private sector action over the past week alone that goes well beyond the traditional military focus of the U.S.-Israel relationship. Our alliance is not a one-way street as many suggest. Commercial ties are contributing to our economy, creating thousands of jobs in the United States, and driving game-changing innovation in the areas noted above as well as medicine, high-tech, renewable energy, and beyond.
While our security cooperation will remain at the crux of our alliance, increasingly, the next horizon for the U.S.-Israel relationship will focus on areas where our two countries have only begun to scratch the surface.
Josh Kram is the Senior Director, Middle East Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.