Thursday, January 20, 2011

If Israel Doesn’t Want Our Military Aid, Then Why Should We Provide It?

by Josh Ruebner, National Advocacy Director What do a free market Israeli think tank and Israel’s leading business newspaper have in common? Yes, both promote Israeli business interests, obviously. But, more interestingly, each has called for ending U.S. military aid to Israel in recent days. On January 12, Israeli economist Yarden Gazit published a paper for the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies (JIMS), arguing that U.S. military aid to the Middle East is fueling an unsustainable arms race. Gazit estimates, for example, that for every dollar in U.S. aid provided to Egypt, Israel must spend between $1.6-2.1 to maintain its qualitative military edge. Since approximately 75% of U.S. military aid to Israel must be spent on U.S. weapons (this is a special exemption for Israel written into U.S. law—all other countries receiving U.S. aid are required to spend 100% of their grant on U.S. weapons), Gazit figures that Israeli military industries lose up to $750 million per year on weapons orders that could be filled domestically. JIMS’s conclusion: "US aid is a net loss for Israel and Israel would be better off without it." On January 19, Israeli journalist Ran Dagoni wrote in Globes that: “The time has come to bid goodbye to the military aid that the US extends to Israel, that generous package (currently worth $3 billion) that enables the Israeli taxpayer to share the cost of procuring equipment for the IDF with the US taxpayer. Israel should itself initiate the process of detachment from the Washington breast. It should be done gradually, on terms that will enable Israel to wean itself off this intoxicating milk, before the Americans take action, on their terms. Israel won't collapse.” Dagoni analyzes Israel’s rising economic prospects and the United States’ declining fiscal realities, combined with the ascendance of the Tea Party and its small government philosophy, to conclude that Israel can and should negotiate an agreement with the United States to purchase weapons on the open market in the future. Unfortunately neither the think tank nor the newspaper considers the human costs to Palestinians of U.S. military aid to Israel. But then again, that’s our job. Since September 2000, Israel has killed more than 3,000 unarmed Palestinian civilians according to the Israeli human rights organization B’tselem, often with U.S. weapons in flagrant violation of the Arms Export Control Act, which limits the use of U.S. weapons to “internal security” and “legitimate self-defense.” Israel’s illegal military occupation of Palestinian land and its apartheid policies toward Palestinians are neither. As President Obama prepares his State of the Union address and puts the final touches on his FY2012 budget request to Congress, which is expected to include a record-breaking $3,075,000,000 in military aid to Israel, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is gearing up to challenge this year’s appropriation. According to our data at our interactive website, this year’s military aid package to Israel could be much more wisely spent to provide 373,376 low-income families with affordable housing vouchers; or retrain 495,640 unemployed workers for green jobs; or educate 909,204 at-risk youth through early reading programs; or supply basic health care services to 24,902,818 people lacking insurance. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be re-launching an upgraded version of this website, sending updated and expanded packets to volunteers who want to organize in their communities to end military aid to Israel, and originating an open letter and ad campaign to challenge the President’s request for yet more money for Israel. Stay tuned! Who knows, this year with Israeli business interests in support of our campaign (although from very different perspectives), we may actually succeed in our drive to condition or end U.S. military aid to Israel.