American Aid to Israel: Money for Insults

by Ralph Nader

Global Research, March 23, 201

On
July 10, 1996, at a Joint Session of the United States Congress,
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received a standing ovation
for these words: “With America’s help, Israel has grown to be a
powerful, modern state. …But I believe there can be no greater tribute
to America’s long-standing economic aid to Israel than for us to be
able to say: we are going to achieve economic independence. We are
going to do it. In the next four years, we will begin the long-term
process of gradually reducing the level of your generous economic
assistance to Israel.”


Since 1996, the American taxpayers are
still sending Israel $3 billion a year and providing assorted loan
guarantees, waivers, rich technology transfers and other indirect
assistance. Before George W. Bush left office a memorandum of
understanding between the U.S. and Israel stipulated an assistance
package of $30 billion over the next ten years to be transferred in a
lump sum at the beginning of every fiscal year. Israel’s wars and
colonies still receive U.S. taxpayer monies.

What happened to Mr. Netanyahu’s solemn pledge to the Congress? The short answer is that Congress never called in the pledge.

In
the intervening years, Israel has become an economic, technological and
military juggernaut. Its GDP is larger than Egypt’s even though
Israel’s population is less than one tenth that of the Arab world’s
most populous nation. The second largest number of listings on
America’s NASDAQ Exchange after U.S. companies are from Israel,
exceeding listings of Japan, Korea, China and India combined. Its
venture capital investments exceed those in the U.S., Europe and China
on a per capita basis.

Israel is arguably the fifth most
powerful military force in the world, and Israel’s claims on the U.S.’s
latest weapon systems and research/development breakthroughs are
unsurpassed. This combination has helped to make Israel a major arms
exporter.

The Israeli “economic miracle” and technological
innovations have spawned articles and a best-selling book in recent
months. The country’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.

Under U.S. law, military sales to Israel cannot be
used for offensive purposes, only for “legitimate self-defense.”
Nonetheless, there have been numerous violations of the Arms Export
Control Act by Israel. Even the indifferent State Department has found,
from time to time, that munitions such as cluster bombs were “likely
violations.”

Violations would lead to a cut-off in aid but with
the completely pro-Israel climate in Washington, the White House has
never allowed such findings to be definitive.

The same
indifference applies to violations of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act
that prohibits aid to countries engaging in consistent international
human rights violations. These include the occupation, colonization,
blockades and military assaults on civilians in the Palestinian West
Bank and Gaza, regularly documented by the highly regarded Israeli
human rights group B’Tselem as well as by Amnesty International and
Human Rights Watch.

This week, Prime Minister Netanyahu visits
President Barack Obama after the recent Israeli announcement of 1,600
new housing units in East Jerusalem made while Vice President Joe Biden
was visiting that country.

The affront infuriated New York Times
columnist, Tom Friedman, who wrote that Mr. Biden should have packed
his bags and flown away leaving behind a scribbled note saying “You
think you can embarrass your only true ally in the world, to satisfy
some domestic political need, with no consequences? You have lost total
contact with reality.”

Friedman, a former Times Middle East
correspondent, concluded his rebuke by writing: “Palestinian leaders
Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad are as genuine and serious about working
toward a solution as any Israel can hope to find.”

But until a
few days ago, the U.S. government had no levers over the Israeli
government. Cutting off aid isn’t even whispered in the halls of
Congress. Raising the issue would further galvanize Israel’s allies,
including AIPAC.

The only lever left for the U.S. suddenly
erupted into the public media a few days ago. General David Petraeus
told the Senate that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has
foreign policy and national security ramifications for the United
States.

He said that “The conflict foments anti-American
sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab
anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of
U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the Area of
Responsibility…Meanwhile, Al-Qaeda and other military groups exploit
that anger to mobilize support.”

A few days earlier, Vice
President Joe Biden told Prime Minister Netanyahu in Israel that “what
you’re doing here undermines the security of our troops who are
fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

What Obama’s people
are publically starting to say is that regional peace is about U.S.
vital interests in that large part of the Middle East and, ultimately,
the safety of American soldiers and personnel.

As one retired diplomat commented “This could be a game-changer.”

Ralph Nader is a frequent contributor to Global Research.  Global Research Articles by Ralph Nader
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