Washington is preparing to increase US aid to Israel by billions of dollars, with a ten-year ironclad agreement that couldn’t be altered by President Obama’s successor. But that isn’t good enough for Bibi Netanyahu. He wants more. Much more.
Unlike the case with other countries, the US engages in protracted and often difficult negotiations with Israel over how much free stuff they’re going to get come budget time. This year, the talks are taking on a particularly urgent tone because of … you guessed it, Donald Trump. While Trump is fervently pro-Israel, he has said that the Israelis, like our NATO allies, are going to have to start paying for their own defense (although with him, you never know what his position is from one day to the next). This uncertainty has the two parties racing to sign an agreement before President Obama’s term is up in January. And it also has inspired the inclusion of a novel clause: a ten-year guarantee that aid will remain at the agreed level, with no possibility that the new President – whoever that may be – will lower it.
The Israelis currently receive over half the foreign aid doled out by Uncle Sam annually, most of it in military assistance with an extra added dollop for “refugee resettlement.” That combined with loan guarantees comes to roughly $3.5 billion per year – with all the money handed to them up front, in the first weeks of the fiscal year, instead of being released over time like other countries.
So how much is this increase going to amount to? With negotiations still ongoing, the US isn’t releasing any solid figures, although Bibi, we are told, is demanding $5 billion annually. The New York Times is reporting the final sum could “top $40 billion.” What we do know is that the administration told Congress in a letter that they are prepared to offer Tel Aviv an aid package “that would constitute the largest pledge of military assistance to any country in US history.” In addition, it would guarantee US aid for Israel’s missile defense, taking it out of the annual appropriations song-and-dance, and immunizing it from any cuts.
Aside from the “haggling” – as the Times put it – over the amount, there is another issue: the Israeli exception to a rule that applies to all other recipients of American aid. Other countries must spend their welfare check in dollars – that is, they must buy American. Not the Israelis. They’re allowed to spend up to 25% of their aid package at home: which means that US taxpayers have been subsidizing the Israeli military-industrial complex to the tune of multi-billions since the 1980s, when this special arrangement was legislated. However, in an era where “America First” is now a popular political slogan – popularized by You Know Who – the Obama administration is trying to end this exception to the rules. Naturally, the Israelis are resisting, but, according to Ha’aretz:
“The Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth said the White House was prepared to let Israel keep the arrangement for the first five years of the new MOU but it would be gradually phased out in the second five years, except for joint U.S.-Israeli military projects.”
If the rabidly pro-Israel Hillary Clinton takes the White House, you can expect that this concession will be re-negotiated: in any case, the Israel lobby will wield its considerable resources to get Congress to pressure the White House.
In their letter to Congress, national security honcho Susan Rice and OMB chief Shaun Donovan evoke the Iran deal as justification for this new and sweeter aid package. Yet this argument undermines the administration’s contention that the agreement with Iran doesn’t endanger Israel – because if it doesn’t, then why do the Israelis need billions more in aid in the first place?
What the letter tiptoes around is the fact that this aid package is extortion, pure and simple. It’s a purely political attempt by the Obama White House to appease the Israelis, and mobilize the Israel lobby behind the Democrats in a crucial election year. It’s important to keep Haim Saban happy.
As Glenn Greenwald points out in The Intercept, the Israelis have cradle-to-grave health care. Their life-expectancy is nearly a decade longer than ours. Their infant mortality rate is lower. By any meaningful measure, their standard of living is higher. They should be sending us aid: instead, the opposite is occurring.
What in the heck is going on here?
We made possible the Israeli Sparta: a state armed to the teeth which thrives on the misery and enslavement of its dispossessed Palestinian helots. Furthermore, our policy of unconditional support for Israel has encouraged the growth and development of a polity that is rapidly going fascist. And I don’t use the “f”-word lightly. I’ve been chronicling Israel’s slide toward a repulsive ethno-nationalism for years, and today – with the rise of ultra-rightist parties that openly call for the expulsion of Arabs and the expansion of the Israeli state to its Biblically-ordained borders – my predictions are coming true.
The “special relationship” is a parasitic relationship: the Israelis have been feeding off US taxpayers since the Reagan era. This in spite of the numerous insults, slights, and outright sabotage they have directed our way. It’s high time to put an end to it. To borrow a phrase from You Know Who: it’s time to put America first.
What this means in practice is: 1) End aid to Israel, 2) Call out the Israelis for their shameful apartheid policies, and 3) end the power of the Israel lobby by enforcing the Foreign Agents Registration Act and compelling AIPAC and its allied organizations to register as foreign agents. Because that’s just what they are.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.