Nearing a Deal? U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel
by Sarah Ann Haves
Recent reports indicate that the United States wants to conclude a military foreign aid deal with Israel before the end of President Barak Obama’s term in office. The White House promoted the idea to Congress in July, stating that this U.S. administration has done more for Israel’s security than any other in U.S. history.
But, according to Middle East expert Yoram Ettinger, a long-time advisor to Israeli and American political leaders, there have been other American presidents that have cut lucrative deals with Israel. Speaking of former American President Richard Nixon, Ettinger stated that Nixon came to the White House with a distinct critical view of Israel, and on occasions, expressed himself in a negative way about the Jewish people as a whole. Yet, that did not stop Nixon from supporting Israel militarily.
“We noticed in 1974, a president who wasn’t supposed to be pro-Israel; who did not come to the White House as pro-Israel, but in fact, submitted the package, which at that time, was the most desirable package for Israel; and, contained the most dramatic, ever, increase in foreign aid to Israel.”
Sharing with reporters in Jerusalem at a press conference last month, Ettinger pointed out that some would say that Israel would be better off to hurry and conclude an aid deal before the next election, as if U.S.-Israel relations and a defense package depends on U.S. presidents. On the contrary, he believes that the American constituency has the most impact on U.S.-Israel relations, referring to the power of Congress as a stronger influence than the White House in financial responsibility towards the Jewish State.
According to Ettinger, every single American president has pressured Israel, yet the strategic cooperation between the two countries is at an all time high. It has passed both Israeli and American expectations. This, Ettinger believes, is due more to Congressional bi-partisan cooperation than White House foreign policy.
“Congress, according to the constitution, according to reality, is a co-equal co-determining element….In most cases, they prefer not to get involved. But, once they do, they do demonstrate a muscle which they can flex, and that muscle is at least as equal as the muscle of the Executive. It is Congress, not the President, which has the power of the purse in the U.S.”
Israel has depended on a pro-Israel Congress to help maintain a qualitative military edge (QME) over its enemies. As long as a majority of U.S. citizens favor Israel, and elect supportive members of Congress, Ettinger thinks that military aid to Israel will continue to be successful. He implied at the Jerusalem press conference that Americans living overseas, who may not want to vote this year for the next American president, should still vote in Congressional elections.
|[Obama] wants to end
in the current deal.
Meanwhile, as a massive new 10 year arms deal between the U.S. and Israel gets closer to becoming a reality, U.S. President Barack Obama is trying to change the rules of the game. He wants to end a provision that is in the current deal. Up until now, Israel has been allowed to spend about 1/4 of U.S. aid money building advanced weapons systems inside Israel, while the rest of the aid money has been designated to be spent at U.S. defense industries. If Obama has his way, Israel will be required to spend all the aid money in America.
Jewish leaders are concerned this will hurt Israel’s economy, as well as curtail Israel’s security needs. For example, when a jet fighter is built by American defense industries, the IDF usually insists in being able to add its own sophisticated upgrades, in order to protect its security interests. However, if in the future, every part of the fighter is built in the U.S., this may prevent or hinder Israel from being able to later change the configurations of the jet at home.
The Obama Administration insists that Israel is cutting into America’s financial interests because the Jewish State exports more arms overseas than any other country except the United States. While the potential shift in U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation would be a windfall for American defense contractors, it would hurt Israel’s employment sector because there would be less jobs and less money to hire people. And, it could cause havoc with the budgets of Israeli defense contractors.
The Israeli defense industry stands to lose $8-10 billion over the next 10 years if the Obama military package goes through. Yet Israel has limited leverage because it needs American high-end military technology to help it deal with real enemy threats on its borders, and the looming threat of a possible confrontation with a future nuclear Iran.
Israel just received delivery of the American advanced F-35 fighter jets. Any new Israeli purchases would benefit U.S. defense manufacturer Lockheed Martin if there is a new provision in a future military aid package. U.S. reports indicate that Israel is now the world’s largest exporter of drones, competing with American manufacturers throughout Europe and Asia. U.S. firms want a greater advantage internationally, especially in the Far East. Israel’s financial gain in oversees markets continues to grow. However, Israel also continues to contribute technology, intelligence, and security know-how to American military forces.
Israel’s front-line experience in war and terror in the volatile Middle East region is currently not being seen as a priority interest in the Obama White House. Therefore, continuing to give Israel flexibility in building advanced weapons systems on the Israeli home front, in order to address these regional concerns, would likely be curtailed under the new Obama plan.
Israeli leaders claim that the U.S. has also benefited from Israel’s high-tech innovations, especially its cyber warfare capabilities and drone military programs. One of the ways Israel is expected to benefit from a future U.S military aid package has to do with guaranteed provisions for Israel’s important missile defense systems like the Iron Dome and David’s Sling. Israel has been lobbying Congress to get additional funds each year.
If the new aid package goes through under the Obama Administration, a certain amount will be designated for missile defense, with the stipulation that Israel will not be able to ask Congress for more funds during the year. This may be another sticking point in the current negotiations.
The new Memorandum of Understanding now depends on just how much Israel has to bend to U.S. demands, and whether Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman want to wait and see if they can get a better deal through a newly elected American president and newly elected U.S. congressional members.
alliance has suffered
It’s a different political climate now, and the U.S.-Israel alliance has suffered under Obama’s rule in the White House. Still, military and security cooperation remains at an all-time high. Both nations want this deal to work.
Time will tell if Israel will come to an agreement in regard to current U.S. demands, knowing that the economy of the Jewish State will suffer, and the loss to the defense industries will be great. Some Jewish leaders think that the Israeli government should wait for a better deal because the Obama proposal could seriously undermine Israel’s ability to support its robust arms industry. Israel’s strength lies in developing smaller scale systems like drones, anti-missile batteries and subsystems like radar and avionics. It also has significant munitions and cyber capability. The US takes advantage of the Israeli R&D in these areas, and that will be severely impacted if Obama’s deal goes through. Some analysts say Israel should not give up its ability to produce homegrown defense systems.
In the past, the U.S. helped Israel to defend itself. Today, both countries can boast of helping one another. In the future, both need to appreciate the strategic alliance that has existed for decades regardless of who has been in the White House. A strong pro-Israel Congress; a newly elected U.S. president that is committed to Israel’s security and survival; along with a majority of continued American public support, will have a positive impact on Israel’s ability to maintain its military power and cutting edge superiority over its enemies in the Middle East.
“Some nations boast of their chariots and horses, but we boast in the name of the LORD our God.” Psalm 20:7
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Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Ms. Haves is a news analyst, reporting on political, diplomatic, military and spiritual issues in Israel and the nations.