A New York Times Editorial Calls for Cutting US Aid to Israeli Military
Just how far out of the American political mainstream is the anti-Israel editorial position of the New York Times?
The latest outrage from the newspaper is an unsigned staff editorial criticizing as excessive the 10-year, $38 billion aid agreement signed last week between Israel and the United States. That deal was approved by President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry, and praised by Hillary Clinton. Congressional Republicans, if anything, want to make it bigger.
Standing outside that bipartisan consensus, the Times editorial, representing the paper’s official, institutional opinion, asserts, “It is worth asking whether the ever-increasing aid levels make sense, especially in the face of America’s other pressing domestic and overseas obligations.” The editorial even goes beyond that, not just “asking” but answering in the negative: “In truth, the aid package is already too big.”
One sign of the anti-Israel bias of the Times is that it uses a different standard to measure military aid to Israel than it uses to measure spending on other things. The Times’ characterization of the aid as “ever-increasing” fails to take into account inflation. The White House fact sheet on the deal states that the money, covering 2019 to 2028, “will be disbursed in equal increments of $3.3 billion in FMF and $500 million in missile defense funding each year for the duration of the understanding.”
When congressional Republicans try to constrain the growth of welfare or entitlement spending programs like food stamps or Medicare by holding spending growth to less than the inflation rate, let alone level in nominal terms, the Times editorialists and columnists work themselves into a furor denouncing “cuts.” Yet when it comes to Israel’s aid, somehow only nominal dollar figures get mentioned, with no adjustment or understanding of the idea that $3 billion in 2007, when the last memorandum of understanding was signed, is worth something different than $3.3 billion in 2028, which will be the final year of aid covered under the new memorandum.
If the Times editorial writers have trouble understanding this point, let them perform a thought experiment with keeping their own salaries constant every year for 10 years straight, without any increase for inflation. Do you think they’d describe that as “ever-increasing”? Or let them imagine a federal budget for college financial aid, or for health care for the poor, or some other favored Times cause, that featured an amount locked in at a constant number for 10 years straight, with no increase or adjustment for inflation from year to year. Why, the Times’ own single-copy newsstand price in New York City has skyrocketed to $2.50 today from the 60 cents it cost in 1999. Home-delivery prices have also steadily climbed. Would the Times commit to a decade-long subscription price freeze?
Using the federal government’s own online inflation calculator, $3 billion in 2007 dollars has the buying power of $3.48 billion in 2016. So the aid levels to Israel are not “ever increasing,” they are decreasing in real terms. It’s not in many people’s interest to point this out. It makes the pro-Israel lobbying groups look even more impotent than they did after they failed to stop the Iran deal. It makes Mr. Obama look anti-Israel, and it makes Prime Minister Netanyahu look like he got a lousy deal. If you look at what the dollar can buy in gold, the dollar in 2007 bought roughly twice as much gold as one today will buy. So, far from “ever-increasing,” the dollar-denominated aid is worth about half what it was worth a decade ago. It’s no wonder that the last time around Israel’s representative in these negotiations was a central banker, Stanley Fischer; the deal is as much about the present discounted value of dollars as it is about military hardware, a point that seems totally lost on the Times.
What’s more, the Times editorialists carping about a $3.8 billion a year military aid deal to Israel that doesn’t even keep pace with inflation — it would be accurate to characterize it as a “cut,” in real terms — are the same ones who have been loudly cheerleading for the Iran nuclear deal that will provide the terror-sponsoring Islamic Republic with $150 billion in sanctions relief, including billions in cash already airlifted in cargo planes on wooden pallets to Tehran as hostage ransom.
The Times doesn’t say, if the $3.8 billion a year in aid to Israel is “already too big,” what its preferred aid level is. But imagine the changes in relative strategic strength that would be wrought by following the Times-proposed pattern and funneling billions of dollars to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps — for funding the Hezbollah and Hamas terrorist groups to kill Jews in Israel and elsewhere — while at the same time cutting US military aid to Israel to even lower levels than the new depths (in real terms) endorsed by President Obama.
The Times, as is typical of a newspaper with a post-Holocaust Holocaust obsession, surrounded its weekend editorial calling for defunding the Israel Defense Forces with a scrim of fulsome Holocaust-related coverage. The paper carried an adoring profile of Phillipe Sands focusing on his status as the grandson of a Holocaust survivor. And then there is a Nicholas Kristof column provocatively headlined “Would You Hide a Jew From The Nazis?” The Times editorial writers may imagine that they would have hidden a Jew from the Nazis 75 years ago, but right now, with the Iranian-funded terrorists aiming missiles, bombs, and rockets at Israeli civilians and at Jewish community targets outside Israel, the Times editorial writers want to send $150 billion to Iran while cutting American aid to Israel to new lows.
One final observation: The Times editorial about the Israel aid deal was published on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. The newspaper has an ugly habit of using the Jewish Sabbath and holidays — when observant Jews refrain from writing or using computers — as moments to attack Jewish interests, with the effect of making it more difficult for organized Jewish groups to mount a rapid response. In the past I have called the practice “Kind of an opinion journalism version of the Yom Kippur War.” One hopes the Sabbath publication date of this Times editorial won’t prevent both the American Jewish leadership and the government of Israel from meeting it with the sharp and forceful rebuttal that it deserves.
More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.