US debt requires reducing military aid to Israel

US debt requires reducing military aid to Israel

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Israeli Tank
Israeli Tank

WASHINGTON, August 29, 2014 – As everyone knows, our own government is deep in debt. Both Republicans and Democrats say that they are looking for ways to cut nonessential spending. One place to begin may be to reconsider our massive U.S. military aid to Israel, a prosperous country with nuclear weapons and the strongest army in the Middle East.

American taxpayers have provided Israel with at least $118 billion (current or non-inflation adjusted dollars) in military aid and currently provides $3.1 billion annually. Beyond this, according to a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report to Congress prepared by Middle East specialist Jeremy M. Sharp,:

“Israel has received benefits not available to any other countries. For example, Israel can use some U.S. military assistance both for research and development in the U.S. and for purchases from Israeli manufacturers. U.S, aid earmarked for Israel is generally delivered in the first 30 days of the fiscal year, while most other recipients normally receive aid in installments.”

The CRS went on to note that,

“Israel’s ability to use a significant portion of its annual military aid for procurement in Israel is a unique aspect of its assistance package. No other recipient of U.S. military assistance has been granted this benefit.”

One result of this special treatment is that Israel is now the sixth largest arms exporter in the world, with sales totaling $12.9 billion. Now, there is some question about whether or not Israel has violated U.S. law in its recent war in Gaza, in which Palestinians suffered more than 2,000 casualties, most of them civilians including hundreds of children.

Under the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) and Arms Export Control Act (AECA), the U.S. is obliged to suspend or terminate military aid when U.S. weapons are used against civilians or in other ways that violate international humanitarian law, but these provisions have not been invoked or After resupplying the Israelis with ammunition during the Gaza crisis, Washington has finally started reviewing Israeli arms requests on a case-by-case basis and is withholding a new shipment of Hellfire missiles.

Compliance with the FAA and ACECA would require a suspension of military aid until recent alleged violations of U.S. law have been fully investigated and stricter compliance could justify ending all military aid until a permanent peace settlement is reached and the occupation of Palestinian territory is ended.

Early in August, an Israeli missile attack that killed 10 civilians sheltering in a U.N. school in Gaza prompted a call for restraint from the U.S. Government over what the State Department described as a “disgraceful” act. What Israel used in that Aug.3 strike was a Hellfire missile, a U.S.-made weapon, according to the United Nations. This incident was one of many in which weapons provided to Israel by the U.S. were used.

The U.N. has condemned Israel’s use of heavy weaponry against civilians in Gaza. Human rights groups have called on the U.S. to impose a comprehensive arms embargo on Israel. Some rights activists say that the U.S. should bear responsibility if a U.N. inquiry finds that Israel’s actions violated international law in part by the “The question that we are asking is: Is that an appropriate munition to be using in a densely populated area?” said Robert Turner, director of operations in Gaza for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which helps Palestinian refugees across the Middle East.

“According to international law, they need to show precaution, and is their decision of weaponry showing adequate precaution to avoid civilian deaths and casualties?”

The U.S. provides Israel with such weapons as F-16 fighter jets, Apache helicopters, missiles and tank rounds. We also finance Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, which protects Israeli population centers. Other recent transfers have included grenades, mortar rounds and large quantities of rocket motors.

“The U.S. government must accept that by repeatedly shipping and paying for such arms on this scale they are exacerbating and further enabling grave abuses to be committed against civilians during the conflict in Gaza,” said Brian Wood, head of arms control and human rights for Amnesty International.

Writing from Gaza for The Washington Post, Sudarson Raghavan and Ruth Eglash report:

“In the city of Deir al Balah on a recent day, Gazans found an unexploded bomb lying on the side of the road steps away from an UNRWA field office. After seeing a photo of the bomb, experts said the weapon was a 2,000-pound U.S.-made Mark 84, one of the largest bombs in the U.S. arsenal. On a road in Rafah that has been shattered by the tracks of battle tanks and bulldozers, 120mm artillery shell casings lie in the rubble of houses. Some are marked ‘Made in USA.’

A weapon fragment etched with “US” and a serial number is labeled: ‘GUIDED MISSILE, SURFACE ATTACK,’. Residents said that tanks had blasted the area and that people were killed and injured. ‘What have I ever done to America?’ Asked Saadi al-Amessi, 48, staring at the fragments of a 155mm artillery shell lying in the remains of his obliterated house in the nearby town of Al Berej.”

Critics charge that massive U.S. military aid to Israel, and no constraints on how it is used, makes the U.S. complicit in the civilian deaths in Gaza. A widely publicized statement by several hundred Jewish survivors of the Holocaust and descendants of survivors (published in The New York Times, Aug. 23, 2014) declares:

“We unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonization of historic Palestine. We further condemn the United States for providing Israel with funding to carry out the attack…We are alarmed by the extreme, racist dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society, which has reached a fever-pitch…Nothing can justify bombing UN shelters, homes, hospitals and universities. Nothing can justify depriving people of electricity and water…’Never again’ must mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE!”

Israel’s policies with regard to Palestinians, according to longstanding U.S. Government policy, are in violation of international law. Washington has repeatedly asked Israel to stop building settlements on occupied territory. Israel, while lobbying for U.S. military aid, rejects U.S. efforts to move toward a two-state solution. Secretary of State John Kerry was brutally attacked in Israel, even called an “anti-Semite,” for advancing a peace process which would move toward a two-state solution.

Israel, while receiving billions of dollars in aid, is indifferent to long-term U.S, interests in the region, interests which have been set back dramatically by our association with the occupation.

At a National Summit to Reassess the U.S.-Israel “Special Relationship” held in Washington, D.C. in March, a group of specialists, former government and military officials and academics showed how our financing of Israel without being able to influence it toward a peace agreement with the Palestinians has harmed U.S. interests throughout the Middle East.

Brig. Gen. (ret.) James J. David questioned whether the U.S. benefits from its overwhelming military support of Israel:

“When you look at the enormous amount of U.S. weapons that we provide Israel each and every year and see the kind of results that it’s achieving, you’ve got to ask yourself, what good is it? We’re giving so many weapons that she keeps invading her neighbors, keeps the Palestinians in Gaza locked up in a prison pen.”

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist, noted that Israel

“…does actual damage to the U.S. through using its considerable access to Congress and the media to promote policies that are neither good for the United Stares nor for Israel.”

Beyond this, said Giraldi,

“The Government Accountability Office has concluded that Israel conducts the most aggressive espionage operation against the United States of any U.S. ally.”

Harvard University Professor Stephen Walt argued that U.S. aid to Israel is in many ways irrational, and not strategic.

“We give this aid unconditionally,” he declared. “There’s no hint we might reduce our assistance to get Israel to stop building settlements or to allow creation of a viable Palestinian state.” According to Professor John Quigley of Ohio State University, blind support for Israel is harming America in the world: “I think one can say that our positions are out of step with the positions of most of the world community and it’s one of the major reasons for the negative perception of the United States in the region.”

We know that the massive aid Israel receives is not based upon U.S. national interest. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has written that such support in Congress has been “bought and paid for.”

Former Rep. Paul Findlay (R-IL) says,

“I know a lot of members of Congress are bought and paid for–you might as well face it—and they’re not going to change. The influence of Israel as of today is so great on Capitol Hill that they see dangers of not surviving the next election if they challenge what Israel is doing.”

This is hardly the way U.S. foreign policy should be made. How are we to mobilize support to fight radical Islamic terrorist groups such as ISIS if we are perceived as financing Israel’s assault upon Gaza and continuing occupation of Palestinian territory?

Israel has the world’s sixth most powerful army, nuclear weapons, and a prosperous economy. It can easily do without U.S. military aid. And we are not doing Israel any favors by acquiescing in its current policies, which are harmful not only to our long-term interests, but Israel’s as well. As the old saying goes, friends don’t let friends drive drunk.

Except in the case of Israel, we do, to the detriment of us both.

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Allan C. Brownfeld
Received B.A. from the College of William and Mary, J.D. from the Marshall-Wythe School of Law of the College of William and Mary, and M.A. from the University of Maryland. Served as a member of the faculties of St. Stephen's Episcopal School, Alexandria, Virginia and the University College of the University of Maryland. The recipient of a Wall Street Journal Foundation Award, he has written for such newspapers as The Houston Press, The Washington Evening Star, The Richmond Times Dispatch, and The Cincinnati Enquirer. His column appeared for many years in Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. His articles have appeared in The Yale Review, The Texas Quarterly, Orbis, Modern Age, The Michigan Quarterly, The Commonweal and The Christian Century. His essays have been reprinted in a number of text books for university courses in Government and Politics. For many years, his column appeared several times a week in papers such as The Washington Times, The Phoenix Gazette and the Orange County Register. He served as a member of the staff of the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, as Assistant to the research director of the House Republican Conference and as a consultant to members of the U.S. Congress and to the Vice President. He is the author of five books and currently serves as Contributing Editor of The St. Croix Review, Associate Editor of The Lincoln Review and editor of Issues.