WHETHER the alleged spying by Jonathan Pollard for Israel was officially sanctioned by the Israeli government or not, the apparent act illustrates that we have information which we do not consider in our interests to share with Israel. We do not do so because our interests differ. As with many other aspects of our foreign relations, we have built up a romantic convention about Israel: our only ally in the Midde East, a bulwark against Soviet expansion, a democracy with which we share basic values. The notion of differences may shock us.
Although Israel is an important friend of the United States, the degree of parallel interests can be exaggerated. In four ways, relating to common enemies, military strategy, attitudes toward the Soviet Union, and reactions to events, we have significant differences.
Israel's enemies are not necessarily our enemies. Many Israelis would like to see a polarized Middle East in which they were our only ally. We have important and traditional Arab friends with which we must maintain close relations. If some reports are correct, the Israeli spy activity was designed to gain information that we may have on Arab countries. We cannot share such information and maintain the broader ties essential to our political, strategic, and economic interests in the region.
Israel's military capacity is not necessarily designed to support our strategic objectives. Israel's armed forces are designed to defend its frontiers from its neighbors. The interest of the US must be to protect the region against a thrust by the Soviets, not only in territory near to Israel, but farther to the East as well. The critical area of the Persian Gulf is more than 800 miles from Israel over territory hostile to that country. It is difficult to see how Israel could provide any substantial s upport to the US and friendly Arab countries in that sector.