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5 Reasons Why Now is the Time for Israel to Reconsider Accepting US Aid

January 31, 2013 12:27 pm 17 comments

Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Blair House, Washington, D.C., on March 5, 2012. Photo: wiki commons.

Only weeks ago, a small kerfuffle erupted when rising Israeli politician Naftali Bennett indicated in an interview with The Jewish Press that Israel’s continued acceptance of US military aid, to the tune of $3 billion annually, was not a good idea.

“I think, generally, we need to free ourselves from it,” he was reported to have said. “We have to do it responsibly, since I’m not aware of all the aspects of the budget, I don’t want to say ‘let’s just give it up,’ but our situation today is very different from what it was 20 and 30 years ago. Israel is much stronger, much wealthier, and we need to be independent,” he concluded.

A spokesman for Bennett later clarified in an interview with the Jerusalem Post that Bennett intended this as an idea for the long-term, and that it was “currently irrelevant.”

“As a matter of principle, of course Israel’s dependence on foreign aid is an unhealthy situation for which we have to pay a diplomatic price. But on the other hand, with the threats currently facing us, there is no place for changing policies,” the spokesman added.

Of course Bennett was by no means the first to make the suggestion that some serious thought needs to be given to the ongoing format of US aid to the Jewish state. Politicians and groups on both ends of the political spectrum have voiced opposition, which for the most part has been strongly rejected by the mainstream pro-Israel community.

However, if ever there was a time for a detailed cost benefit analysis of Israel’s current acceptance of US aid, here are five reasons why that time is now:

1. Goodwill. Times are tough in America, and in the current economic climate austerity cuts are going to be made across the board, especially in the Defense Department. As a gesture of goodwill to the American people whose generosity and collective moral compass has served as the bedrock of US-Israel relations, a move to limit the aid package to include only what is necessary for Israel’s survival would go a long way. Even if the cut was symbolic and relatively small, it would show the people of history’s most benevolent nation that Israel cares.

It is true that 74 percent of the aid funds delivered to Israel must be spent in the US, thereby feeding the bulk of the funds back into the American economy. However, perception is what counts, and the public is generally not aware of this detail.

2. Leverage. The American people are no longer in control of their foreign policy and it is clear that President Obama intends to unleash an avalanche of diplomatic pressure on Israel to agree to all manner of security concessions. If US aid serves as a lever by which the President enforces his demands, the long term interests of the Jewish state may be better served by temporarily skimming their military budget as a means to avoid territorial concessions and maintain the strategic depth, provided by the West Bank, as a more valuable security need.

It is likely that the US will seek to push concessions with or without being a benefactor to Israel. But surely Obama’s leverage would be weakened.

3. Egypt. America’s latest military aid package to Egypt has elicited strong objections from many in the United States who have raised questions over which country Egypt is likely to use the 20 F16s and 200 Abrams tanks against. Now ruled by the Islamist and virulently anti-Israel Muslim Brotherhood, commentators have highlighted the possibility that Egypt could use the highly advanced weapons against Israel.

If Israel was no longer receiving aid from the United States, it would be far harder for the White House to make the case for arming Egypt to the teeth.

4. Cover. There are many American politicians who have used their record of voting for military aid for Israel as cover for pursuing policies that would prove detrimental to Israel’s security. President Obama is a prime example and his campaign made US aid to Israel under Obama a central pre-election theme, despite his moves to isolate and ostracize the Jewish state. Congressman Bill Pascrell of New Jersey’s 9th district is another prime example.

Without aid serving as the central barometer by which to judge a political candidate’s position on Israel, voters could begin to focus on more substantive issues.

5. Community. AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups have long focused on aid to Israel as a key element of their platforms. The truth is however that while 40, 50 or 60 years ago, when Israel was a fledgling state, nothing was more important, today Israel faces more urgent challenges. Among the foremost of them is the threat of diplomatic isolation as a result of international delegitimization and rabid anti-Israel propaganda.

If aid played a less central role in US-Israel relations, Jewish groups would become more focused on the issues that are most important today.

Considering the above, surely a hard-nosed evaluation of the US-Israel aid relationship is in order.

Having said that, however, and considering Israel’s precarious security situation as expressed by Naftali Bennett, if Israel does find that it simply can’t function with a military budget reduced by approximately 20 percent surely there are other options for it.

One possibility is to seek another client state that wishes to engage in a reciprocal military arrangement without diplomatic strings attached. Although there is no match for the United States, keeping in mind the diplomatic price America exacts from Israel, surely the option must be considered.

China for example has a rapidly expanding aid program and is practically head over heels for Israeli technology and innovative genius. A 2010 cable released by Wikleaks shed light on China’s modus operandi when delivering aid, which appears to be better suited for Israel: “African Embassy officials told EmbOffs that many in the African community were uncomfortable with the concept of US-China development cooperation in Africa. China’s fast, efficient, ‘no strings attached’ bilateral approach is popular in the region, as is the PRC (People’s Republic of China) preference for infrastructure over governance projects.”

Rapid global changes, a colder White House and evolving needs for Israel mean that the time for a re-evaluation of the US-Israel military aid status quo may have finally arrived.

The author is the editor of The Algemeiner and director of the GJCF and can be e-mailed at defune@gjcf.com.

17 Comments

  • I’m an agnostic, mid-60s native born American. I no longer trust my government to do what is best for America or our cultural values. So while I admire Israel and consider it to be on the front line of the war between Western Civilization and the death star of Islam; IMO Israel should wean itself from American military aid. What Israelis need to realize is that currently, American is no longer America; it is the corruption of Chicago. Never trust a Chicago thug and never trust American Jews. 70% of American Jews and gentiles alike will sell you down the river to the politically correct lowest common denominator. Look at our media and academia…. they hate Israel.

  • Donald Johnston

    There is still a huge part of the US that will always be ready to fight to the end with Israel, the phonys will not always be in charge here. DJ

  • Down with M'bama

    And there’s always the possiblity of receiving sabotaged equipment. Lucky that Israel’s most powerful weapon is totally independent of the USA’s fickle largesse.

  • Lawrence Kulak

    This may not be directly relevant, but there is a good chance that the reason why we have gay marriage in this country today is because Yeshiva University accepts funds from the Government. It all started with the Gay clubs in the 80’s which they were forced to accept, then there was the challenge in the Levin case by two Lesbians who wanted to live in the marital dorm that was successful thanks to the NYS Court of Appeals. Yeshiva never went Federal with it presumably because there was no unfettered right of religious practice when you are accepting government funds. After that succesful attack on marital living, States like Massachusettes in 2003 approved Gay Marriage by Judicial Fiat. The rest is history. Meanwhile St. Johns University has no such problem.
    The Moral? When you take money, you have to be prepared for the consequences. The key I believe is not to let the consequences get so bad that it threatens destruction as the cancer of gay marriage will do and is doing. America might be doomed all because YU accepted Government Funds and did not listen to Rav JB Soloveitchek who advised against it in the 50’s. But don’t blame them folks. Blame the sodomites in New York City who sit on the NYC Council and on the NYS Court of Appeals (like Chief Judge Judith Kaye who presided over the Levin case and was invited this past June to speak at Touro’s commencement)

  • I wrote for the first and only time that you subscribe to the “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” theory in this article. It makes no sense.

  • It reminds me of the old adage: “You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t”. The whole conversation/discussion is completely without any reality. Once you end something you can never go back and open that door again. I don’t know who made this up but they should be spanked and sent to bed at once.

  • Raymond in DC

    First, let’s stop calling it “aid” and call it what it is: military assistance in support of US interests. Which puts it closer to what the US does itself at greater cost to, for example, defend South Korea and Taiwan. But every time someone suggests folding this into from the State Department’s “foreign aid” basket to the Defense Department’s “military assistance” basket, it’s the foreign aid crowd that protests.

    Even-More-So is also correct that the US gives more to Israel’s nearby enemies than it does to Israel itself. Will the US cease providing advanced fighters and tanks to Egypt, APCs to Hezbullah-dominated Lebanon and military training to the PA? (I’m not even considering the advanced weaponry the US sells for cash money to Saudi Arabia.) Israel shouldn’t be asked to weaken itself just to make a point while its enemy neighbors continue arming.

  • America should stop giving aid to Israel and instead create complete free trade with Israel, similar to Puerto Rico and treat it like the ally it is.
    Complete free trade is not only just, but it will also be beneficial to both the US and Israel.
    In recent years Israel has grown into a great economy and if there are less economic barriers then the US stands to gain as much as Israel.
    I think it is time for pro-Israel Americans to advocate for open trade in place of the financial aid.

  • ‘It is true that 74 percent of the aid funds delivered to Israel must be spend in the US, thereby feeding the bulk of the funds back into the American economy.’

    This point should be left out of the conversation.

    It doesn’t really matter if the money must be spent in the US it is all still entirely an expenditure.

    If I had pen worth $10 and $10 in cash and I gave you $10 and you would then buy my pen, I will still have $10 less.

  • I happen to agree with this article. I am extremely pro-Israel and maybe letting them stand on their own would give one less thing the anti-Semites to bitch about!

  • Although the aid to Israel is ‘symbolic and relatively small’, compared to the entire US budget, if it stops, it can result in significant savings for the US budget.

    Currently the US provides around 50 Billion dollars in total foreign aid to other countries annually! Being that some of the strongest supporters of foreign aid are Pro-Israel advocates, if the aid to Israel stops it will almost certainly stop for many other countries and that can result in significant spending cuts.

    It is also important to point out that the total aid being given to Israel enemies is greater than then the sum given to Israel. It’s not just Egypt that receives funding, but Jordan and the Palestinian Authority receive as well. Ultimately it would be worth it for Israel if they ceased to receive if the aid stopped to their adversaries as well.

  • I AGREE WITH ALAN !!! AMERICAN AID SPECIALLY MILITARY AID IS VERY ESSENTIAL FOR THE SURVIVAL OF THE JEWISH STATE !!! THERE WILL BE RICH JEWS AND PLENTY OF RICH BRN AGAIN CHRISTIANS WHO WILL NOT ONLY WILL AID ISRAEL FINANCIALLY BUT ALSO WILL LOBBY BOTH PARTIES IN THE US POLITICAL ARENA !!! GOD BLESS ISRAEL !!!

  • With half the Jews “living the Israeli dream” very happily in the United States while donating a few tax-free dollars “to Israel”, words of “independence of the United States” are at best hollow and at worst cynical. Our attitudes towards ourselves, towards those among whom we are found and towards our national “causes” – from Pesach to Holocaust, may well return to haunt us, as they have during our 2000 year nightmare that could have ended on May 15, 1948 — if we cared. We ought to feel shame at our flaunting of history, but probably we will not.

    Alan Solomon, Omer, Israel

    • Can you explain what you mean by ‘Hollow’ and ‘Cynical’?

      Don’t you have faith in the ‘Rock of Israel’ and in Israel’s brave soldiers and innovative spirit?

      Yes I agree, Israel must be strong and never let their guard down and they must continue to spend on defense, but why do they need the manipulation from American politicians?

  • Recent news from Israel is that the current budget is out of balance so that the US aid package is probably still essential. Any Israeli military call up or ground forces activity, e.g. in Gaza. is costly and best limited to air strikes. Hamas may see Israel’s failure to invade with ground forces as a sign of weakness and see it as a Gazan victory, but oftentimes, Arabs tend to see their own disasters somehow as victories anyway. “Can’t beat ’em! No how.”

  • Shoshana Bryen

    All excellent points and should be taken seriously – if Israel announced even that it would give up the 26% of the aid that is NOT spent in the US, Americans would suddenly understand that 74% IS spent here (something that is not generally known and that Israel’s adversaries never mention when they use the $3 billion/year figure), and spent in the defense industry, which is now in sequestration trouble. Double good will points for Israel.

  • alan s. hattem

    Ok how about we do this; American jews will provide military aid to Israel allowing aid to Israel by the United States to be reduced dollar for dollar. Maybe we can’t raise the entire 3 billion a year, maybe we raise only a million but that would be a million less that Israel would have to beg for.

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