Before the outbreak of COVID-19 in China turned the world upside down, a new Great Power competition was emerging between Washington and Beijing, with significant implications for our national security.
From the quest for unbreakable codes with quantum computing to unstoppable missiles at hypersonic speed and the dominance of outer space, the race to ensure that the free world, led by the United States, remains the preeminent global economic and military power continues, but with a new twist: health security is now near the top of that list.
China has responded to legitimate international criticism over its ongoing suppression of information about the outbreak by threatening to cut off supplies of medicines, protective equipment and even the industrial ingredients needed to produce drugs. Suddenly, the United States realized that supply chains for vitally important products are in the hands of an authoritarian adversary.
This is a moment to ask: Which allies can America rely on?
At the top of the list is Israel, which now has two of the top ten leading vaccine candidates to combat COVID-19. If Israel strikes gold in the vaccine race, there would be no delay in getting it to America, since the U.S. is Israel's first strategic partner for export. This is in stark contrast to China and even longstanding allies like France and Germany, which quickly nationalized various health-related assets and denied them to other countries when COVID broke out.
The opportunity for America to benefit from Israel's pharmaceutical and scientific prowess does not end in the research lab, hospital or pharmacy. The United States and Israel enjoy a unique strategic and diplomatic relationship, rooted in shared values and close cooperation, that dates back to the Cold War. Few, if any, regional powers are as closely aligned with America's foreign policy aspirations, and no U.S. partner does more on the ground to defend U.S. interests. These same trusted channels of military, defense, industrial, intelligence, technological and security cooperation are now being deployed to fight the pandemic.
U.S. federal authorities, state governments and our highly stressed public health institutions are starting to take notice. They have been accessing both established and new channels to leverage Israeli innovation to help Americans.
Israel's most noteworthy initiatives over recent months range from the prosaic to the truly game-changing.
In late March, Israeli pharmaceutical company Teva announced that it would donate more than six million doses of hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets through wholesalers to hospitals across the U.S.—and more than 10 million within a month, to meet the urgent need for this anti-malaria drug widely being used to help treat COVID-19.
One of Israel's leading research institutions, the Technion, in collaboration with the Israeli Defense Ministry's R&D branch, developed a 3D-printed supplementary filter layer for breathing masks, known as the Maya sticker. The sticker is composed of disinfectant-coated nanoscale fibers capable of blocking the coronavirus, and has proven to be successful.
Israel's premier biological research laboratory—the Israel Institute for Biological Research—is a defense organization founded to protect the population against terror attacks from germ weapons, and it has isolated a key novel virus antibody that represents a watershed breakthrough in formulating an effective treatment for COVID-19.
The Israeli counterparts to FEMA and the CDC are in close and regular communication with their American professional colleagues to share relevant data and procedures.
Dozens and soon, hundreds, of such public-private collaborative undertakings are emerging, being tested, refined and will ultimately be distributed wherever the need is greatest.
Israel's initiatives to address the global pandemic are a far cry from the Chinese government's intellectual property theft and reverse engineering of foreign-origin technology for mass production, market domination and geostrategic advantage.
The United States should not rely on non-democratic countries to exercise the kind of transparency and good faith that is needed during a crisis. This lesson extends into other areas of foreign policy, as well. China lied to the world about the outbreak of the virus and continues its dishonesty today.
Many in America made a serious mistake by placing so much trust in China during the pandemic. We must now undo the damage. The first step is building on our alliances with countries that share our values, treat us as friends and have the technological capabilities to innovate and creatively solve problems. For our pandemic future, Israel is the ultimate American ally.
Michael Makovsky, a former Pentagon official in the George W. Bush administration, is president and CEO of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA). Charles Perkins is director for U.S.-Israel security policy at JINSA.
The views expressed in this article are the writers' own.