Former US President John F. Kennedy ( (
JFK at press conference


This Week in Israel’s history, former US President John F. Kennedy offered Israel assistance against Arab aggression and Israel and the US signed an agreement for Israeli participation in Strategic Defense Initiative research.

May 6, 1986 – US and Israel Cooperate on Strategic Defense Initiative

Following World War II, the political alliance between the United States and the former USSR disintegrated, leaving the two superpowers in a state of opposition referred to as the “cold war.”

In 1983, Ronald Reagan, then President of the United States and a vocal critic of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). The idea behind SDI was to use ground-based and space-based systems to protect the US from attack by ballistic strategic nuclear weapons. The initiative focused on strategic defense rather than strategic offense.

SDI was widely criticized as being unrealistic as well as scientifically unfeasible. In the mainstream media, SDI was called “Star Wars,” relating it to the realm of science fiction.

The Reagan Administration considered Israel a strategic asset because of Israel’s opposition to the Soviet Union, and on May 6, 1986, Israel and the United States signed a secret agreement on Israeli participation in SDI research.

Israel’s development of the Arrow anti-ballistic missile and the Iron Dome defense system, which was used largely during last summer’s war with Hamas, was born as a result of its participation in SDI.

May 8, 1963 – JFK offers Israel Assistance

On May 8, 1963, during a press conference, then President John F. Kennedy offered Israel assistance against any aggression when he responded to a question on the military balance in the Near East and U.S. policy on the security of Israel and Jordan:

President Reagan delivering the March 23, 1983 speech initiating SDI

President Reagan delivering the March 23, 1983 speech initiating SDI.

“I don’t think that the balance of military power has been changed in the Middle East in recent days. Obviously there are political changes in the Middle East which still do not show a precise pattern and on which we are unable to make any final judgments. The United States supports social and economic and political progress in the Middle East. We support the security of both Israel and her neighbors. We seek to limit the Near East arms race which obviously takes resources from an area already poor, and puts them into an increasing race which does not really bring any great security.

“We strongly oppose the use of force or the threat of force in the Near East, and we also seek to limit the spread of communism in the Middle East which would, of course, destroy the independence of the people. This government has been and remains as strongly opposed to the use of force or the threat of force in the Near East. In the event of aggression or preparation for aggression, whether direct or indirect, we would support appropriate measures in the United Nations, adopt other courses of action on our own to prevent or to put a stop to such aggression, which, of course, has been the policy which the United States has followed for some time.”