Moral Outrage
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Cutting military aid to Israel not a subject on the table

The diplomatic crisis between the U.S. and Israel has sent a tremor through their alliance, but one key part of the bond seems virtually untouchable: the roughly $3 billion a year in U.S. military aid.

Amid the uproar of recent days over plans to build 1,600 new homes for a Jewish neighborhood in a disputed part of Jerusalem, there has been no serious talk of using aid as a club. One reason may be the potential backlash from Israel’s supporters in the U.S. Another is that the overwhelming part of the money cycles back into the American economy.

Israel is the biggest recipient of American aid after Afghanistan. But unlike most other countries, Israel’s aid is earmarked entirely for military spending. Under an agreement between the two allies, at least three-quarters of the aid must be spent with U.S. companies.

This means that the “close, unshakable bond,” as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton described it, is also a mutually beneficial one: Israel gets the latest American military technology, and American weapons makers – Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing and others – get a steady stream of income.

Following the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, Washington guaranteed Israel would continue receiving annual military and civilian aid in a 3:2 ratio with aid given to Egypt. Since then, Israel’s share has ranged between $2.1 billion and $3.7 billion a year.

“If aid were to stop, it would directly affect Israel’s security and have an indirect effect on its economy,” said Arie Arnon, an economics professor at Ben Gurion University near Beersheba.

With that potential influence in mind, advocacy groups such as Amnesty International called on the U.S. to withhold aid dollars from Israel after its offensive in Gaza last year, arguing that the money was paying for weapons that were killing Palestinian civilians. But the divestment effort failed to gain traction in Washington.

[Excerpts of a Miami Herald article]

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3 Responses to “Cutting military aid to Israel not a subject on the table”

  1. […] After Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was summoned to Washington to meet with President Obama, one must note that the leaders did not appear before any cameras for the customary handshakes, nor was there any indication of an end to the dispute. While the States has recently reiterated its special bond with Israel, the question is how much the US will take and whether the US will play their aid to Israel card. […]

  2. Ralph Nader recently wrote concerning Israel’s need for U.S. financial assistance:

    Israel’s “average GDP growth rate has exceeded the average rate of most western countries over the past five years. Israel provides universal health insurance, unlike the situation in the U.S., which raises the question of who should be aiding whom?

    “Keep in mind, the U.S. economy is mired in a recession, with large rates of growing poverty, unemployment, consumer debt and state and federal deficits. In some states, public schools are shutting, public health services are being slashed, and universities are increasing tuition while also cutting programs. Even state government buildings are being sold off.”

    And with all that, already “Israel is arguably the fifth most powerful military force in the world.”

  3. And for yet further on the subject, during the time Prime Minister Netanyahu was in Washington absorbing the wrath of the Obama administration, the Pentagon and Israel’s defense establishment were in the process of sealing a large arms deal.

    As part of the deal, worth roughly a quarter billion dollars, Israel “purchased” three new Hercules C-130J airplanes designed by Lockheed Martin.

    The deal will be covered by American foreign assistance funds.


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