To “compensate” Israel with sophisticated arms that are likely to be used against Palestinians is to reinforce US complicity in Israel’s ongoing occupation.
When 83 Senators signed their April 25, 2016 letter to President Obama urging “substantially enhanced new long-term” arms aid for Israel, the President appeared ready to oblige.
Within hours after the letter’s delivery, a White House official declared that the United States plans to offer Israel “the largest single pledge of military assistance to any country in US history.”
Israel currently receives $3.1 billion a year. While there is not yet an agreed upon figure for a new ten-year package, the Israelis have reportedly asked for more than $4 billion a year
If the Israeli Prime Minister decides not to hold out for an even larger package from the next US President, such an outsized arms gift from the present incumbent would confer unprecedented largesse on the Israeli military and the US defense industry.
It would also enhance President Obama’s reputation as a committed Israel supporter, despite popular perceptions to the contrary. According to an April 29, 2016 article in the New York Times (“Obama-Netanyahu Rift Impedes U.S. offer of Record Aid Deal for Israel”), the President “would like to burnish his legacy with an unprecedented military aid pact with Israel.”
Both Prime Minister Netanyahu and the US senators have based their case for more arms on “a variety of threats” facing Israel and the need to preserve Israel’s “qualitative military edge.”
At the same time, both Israeli and US negotiators appear to accept without question the need to “compensate” Israel for the recent nuclear arms deal with Iran. Such reasoning seems specious because there is no real loss of Israeli security vis-à-vis Iran. Notwithstanding its verbal attacks, Tehran has never threatened Israel militarily. Furthermore, the nuclear deal provides ample monitoring to forestall agreement violations; and Israel has enough military superiority to deter or repel attacks from its neighbors.
To put the proposed new aid package in perspective, consider the following:
- Israel is the largest recipient of US security assistance, taking in 55% of the State Departments Foreign Military Financing budget worldwide.
- Since 1967, the US has given well over $100 billion of tax dollars to Israel in unconditional military aid.
- To date the US military aid is unconditional and contains no restrictions on the type of weapons (e.g. phosphorus bullets and cluster bombs). The Senators’ letter calls for aid increases “while retaining the current terms of our existing aid program.”
- In its 2014 war on Gaza, Israel used US-provided arms to kill more than 1,500 Palestinian civilians, including more than 500 children. Now Israeli planes again bomb the Gaza Strip, perhaps the first step in another heartless “mowing of the lawn.”
- In the escalating Israel-Palestine conflict, it is more likely that US-provided arms will strike Palestinians in Gaza than other regional foes—unless the new arms flow prompts the Israeli Prime Minister to make a preemptive attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
- Israel is a serial violator of international law. According to the Washington, DC-based Israel Law Resource Center, such violations include collective punishment, apartheid barriers, illegal acquisition of land by force, ethnic cleansing, Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory—and disregard of some 28 resolutions of the UN Security Council.
- The proposed new aid would continue to violate the so-called “Leahy Law,” which bans security assistance to any country “that engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”
The driver of military aid packages for Israel is the US Congress. Not surprising, since almost all its members “have enjoyed expense-paid junkets to Israel and/or generous campaign contributions” from AIPAC-related lobby organizations and US military contractors. (See “Bucks for Bullets: Expanding Arms Aid for Israel,” Foreign Policy Journal, March 19, 2016). Indeed, the corruption of conflict of interest underlies Congressional generosity to Israel.
To “compensate” Israel with sophisticated arms that are likely to be used against Palestinians is to reinforce US complicity in Israel’s ongoing occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and its siege of Gaza. The US should promote a diplomatic solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, not fan the flames of war with increased billion dollar grants for the purchased of deadly weapons.