By Stephen Lendman
From birth, Israel was a regional menace until America became its benefactor in the late 1960s. Now it’s a global one, powerful with a large standing army and the latest weapons and technology, nuclear armed and ready to use them. It’s belligerent on the slightest pretext or none at all, and a threat to world peace and security because US administrations since Lyndon Johnson supported a nation of 5.6 millions in an area the size of New Jersey, partnering in its worst crimes and abuses.
It’s due largely to the Israeli Lobby’s influence, or as John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt wrote in their book, "The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy," America’s Middle East policy is driven "almost entirely (by) US domestic politics, and especially (because of) the (Lobby’s) activities….This situation has no equal in American political history."
In his book, "The Power of Israel in the United States," James Petras documented its enormous influence, explaining its roots throughout government, the business community, the dominant media, academia, the clergy, and powerful wealthy Jewish families. Broad support comes from thousands of dedicated activists, including doctors, lawyers, accountants, other professionals, philanthropists, and journalists given special prominence and benefits for their unwavering pro-Israeli reporting, suppressing decades of its militarism, belligerence, and illegal occupation while vilifying Israel’s enemies.
As a result, Israel receives enormous benefits, including billions in annual aid, the latest weapons and technology, unrestricted US market access, and free entry of its immigrants. Its imperial wars, illegal occupation, and crimes of war and against humanity are supported. Harmful Security Council resolutions are vetoed and General Assembly ones ignored. As a result, it operates freely, including spying in America by covertly penetrating US military bases, the FBI, CIA, IRS, DHS and many other government agencies, remaining unaccountable for its actions.
Israel is unique as America’s largest aid recipient, on the most favorable terms, and virtually anything more requested, given openly or covertly, in violation of the 1961 US Foreign Assistance Act (as amended), stipulating that no aid be provided to governments that engage:
"in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, including torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charges, causing the disappearance of persons by the abduction and clandestine detention of those persons, or other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, and the security of person, unless such assistance will directly benefit the needy people in such country."
In 2004, the amended Act let the president provide aid to treat orphans, other vulnerable children, those with HIV/AIDS, and to set up schools and other supportive programs.
US Aid to Israel
In November 2008, Shirl McArthur of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (WRMEA) used Congressional Research Report (CRS) data for a "Conservative Estimate of Total Direct US Aid to Israel" since 1949, saying it’s almost $114 billion, but explaining that determining the exact figure is impossible since parts are buried in various agency budgets, mostly the Defense Department’s (DOD) or in forms not easily quantifiable.
"It must be emphasized that this analysis is a conservative, defensible accounting of US direct aid to Israel, NOT of Israel’s cost to the US or the American taxpayer, not of the benefits to Israel of US aid. The distinction is important, because the indirect or consequential costs suffered by the US as a result of its blind support for Israel exceed by many times the substantial amount of direct aid" provided.
Besides Afghanistan and other Middle East conflicts, excluded from McArthur’s data, is the mounting Iraq invasion and occupation cost, estimated by Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes to be $3 trillion in their book titled, "The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict."
They include an extra $2 trillion national debt, ad infinitum interest on it, veterans’ healthcare and disability payments, the economic impact of lives lost and jobs interrupted, the higher cost of oil, the long-term economic impact, and numerous intangibles such as global anti-American sentiment, the near universal Arab world view that Washington attacked Iraq for Israel, and the US’s reduced capability to respond to other global crises and address vital homeland needs.
In his June 2003 WRMEA article titled, "The Cost to American Taxpayers of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict," Thomas Stauffer conservatively estimated it at around $3 trillion measured in 2002 dollars, nearly four times the amount for the Vietnam war, also in 2002 dollars.
Stauffer said US Israeli aid is way-understated:
"since much is outside of the foreign aid appropriation process or implicit in other programs. It comes to $1.8 trillion, including special trade advantages, preferential contracts, or aid buried in other accounts. In addition to the financial outlay," about 275,000 US jobs are lost annually.
His estimates include:
— multi-fold oil price increases;
— the effect on US jobs and exports;
— economic and military aid,
— special benefits to Israel, including privileged contracts for Israeli firms, legal and illegal weapons and technology transfers, exemption from US trade protection provisions, discounted "surplus" military equipment sales, low or no-interest loans, and other undisclosed costly benefits, exclusively for Israel.
He concluded that Israeli assistance and Middle East unrest "ha(ve) proven to be very expensive for the US," much higher than revealed figures. Their total costs "are some six times the official aid" with all related factors included such as the price of oil and burden on other regional states. "All states – not just the US – have borne the burden of conflicts in the Middle East."
Known US aid includes:
— annual $3 billion direct appropriations;
— undisclosed additional amounts;
— millions annually to resettle immigrants;
— disclosed and unknown billions in loan guarantees;
— since 1981, economic aid in direct cash transfers, and since 1985 military aid the same way;
— Israeli military loans as grants, repayment not required; Israel wants them called loans to avoid US monitoring; according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), "Technically, the assistance is called loans, but as a practical matter, the military aid is (given as) grants;"
— economic aid is the same, Israel spending it as it pleases with no required accountability;
— since 1982, Economic Support Fund (ESF) cash transfers come in lump sum form at the beginning of each fiscal year, no strings attached – a benefit afforded no other country, made even greater by investing it in US Treasuries;
— special Foreign Military Sales (FMS) funding is also afforded to purchase American weapons and technology; other countries buy them through the Defense Department (DOD); Israel deals directly with US companies; other countries must comply with minimum purchase amounts; Israel has no such restriction; other countries let DOD disburse funds to suppliers; Israel pays them directly and is reimbursed by the US Treasury; under this arrangement, Israeli officials have committed serious offenses, including embezzlement and improper access to highly classified information on US weapons and technology;
— US weapons suppliers provide offsets by purchasing Israeli products and services;
— Israel may use over 26% of its aid to buy weapons, munitions and other equipment from its own companies; no other nation has this benefit; as a result, its arms industry is one of the world’s largest and most sophisticated; in 2007, it was the 8th largest supplier to developing countries;
— aid finances Israel’s defense industry;
— state-of-the-art weapons and technology are provided; and
— America guarantees Israel’s access to oil and finances its settlements – illegal under international law.
In April 1998, Washington designed Israel a "major non-NATO ally," qualifying it to receive Excess Defense Articles (EDA) under Section 516 of the Foreign Assistance Act and Section 23(a) of the Arms Export Control Act. As a strategic US ally, it gets unmatched preferential treatment.
In FY 2009, the If Americans Knew web site said America gave Israel $7 million or more daily. Palestinians got nothing, except to police their own people, strengthen Fatah against Hamas and other competing parties, some economic aid benefitting Israel and the West, and spotty amounts through USAID and to UNRWA and US-based NGOs for projects called "humanitarian."
In their above-mentioned book, Mearsheimer and Walt said:
"Since the October (1973) War, Washington has provided Israel with a level of support dwarfing the amounts (given) any other state. It has been the largest annual recipient of direct US economic and military assistance since 1976 and the largest total recipient since World War II. Total direct US aid to Israel amounts to well over $140 billion in 2003 dollars….In per capita terms, the United States gives each Israeli a direct subsidy worth about $500 per year."
Over the last 20 years, Washington focused mainly on military aid, increasing it by $150 million annually since FY 2007, plus additional amounts for Israeli incursions, planned jointly with Washington.
Before 1998, Israel annually received military grants of $1.8 billion and economic ones totaling $1.2 billion. Beginning in FY 2009, by mutual agreement, economic aid is being reduced by $120 million and military grants increased by $60 million annually over 10 years. In August 2007, a memorandum of understanding afforded Israel $30 billion in aid for 10 years, plus later discovered undisclosed amounts, totaling billions.
Budgeted amounts go mostly for specific projects, such as Israel’s Merkava tank, its Arrow anti-missile missile, other anti-missile systems, and the cancelled Lavi attack fighter. Grants also go to US – Israeli scientific and business cooperation organizations, the two largest being the BIRD (Binational Research & Development) Foundation and the BARD (Binational Agriculture and Research and Development) Fund.
Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report on Aid to Israel – December 4, 2009
Its latest report affirms Israel as "the largest cumulative recipient of US foreign assistance since World War II," saying it gets nearly $3 billion annually, mainly as military assistance.
In August 2007, the Bush administration incrementally increased it by $6 billion over the next decade. For FY 2010, the Obama administration requested $2.775 billion in Foreign Military Financing (FMF). Congress provided $555 million of Israel’s total FY 2010 FMF in PL (Public Law) 111-32, in the FY 2009 Supplemental Appropriations Act. HR 3081 and S 1434 contain the remaining funds.
On July 9, 2009, HR 3160 was introduced, the Israeli Foreign Assistance Appropriations Act, 2010. The bill was referred to committee and awaits further action.
Recent possible military sales include:
— on September 29, 2008, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter with associated equipment and training, a deal, if consummated, worth up to $15.2 billion; Israel wants up to 75 depending on the cost; negotiations continue, but reported disagreement was reported over its right to customize aircraft to its needs and the final per plane cost, from $100 – $200 million depending on the degree of customization;
— on September 9, 2008, Patriot Missile Fire Unit upgrades, 1,000 GBU-39 small diameter guided bombs, and 28,000 M72A7 light anti-armor weapons, in total worth about $330 million; Israel already has US-supplied Hawk and Patriot missiles as well as its own defense systems; since 1988, both countries have been developing the Arrow Anti-Missile system, a weapon with theater ballistic missile capability; Arrow became operational in 2000; Arrow II is designed to deter longer-range conventional ballistic missiles, and other systems are under development, including Arrow III;
— on July 30, 2008, nine C-130 J-30 aircraft with associated equipment and training, worth up to $1.9; billion; and
— on July 15, 2008, four Littoral combat ships, worth up to $1.9 billion, and JP-8 aviation jet fuel worth up to $1.3 billion; in 2009, Israel declined to purchase these ships over cost concerns.
American Israeli aid began in 1949 with a $100 million Export-Import Bank loan and continued modestly for the next two decades. In 1962, Israel bought its first advanced weapons system, Hawk anti-aircraft missiles. In 1968, a year after the Six Day War, the Johnson administration assured Israel’s regional military superiority. Since 1970, large-scale aid followed. In 1971, it was $545 million, and by 1974 Israel became America’s largest aid recipient, two-thirds for military purposes.
After the 1979 Camp David Accords and Israel – Egypt Peace Treaty, Washington gave both sides $7.5 billion under the 1979 Special International Security Assistance Act, allocated 3 – 2 favoring Israel. Thereafter, regular and emergency economic and military aid followed. Today, Israeli allocations far exceed amounts given Egypt or any other nation.
In 1985, Congress appropriated special economic assistance of $1.5 billion under terms of a US – Israel Joint Economic Development Group (JEDG), calling for neoliberal reforms and empowering Israel’s Finance Ministry and national Bank.
Washington and Tel Aviv colluded for two goals:
— balancing Israel’s budget; and
— cutting wages, prices, credit, public benefits, pensions, and the currency’s value as well as curbing union power and establishing an exploitable temporary worker market.
It began Israel’s race to the bottom by mass privatizations, welfare and social benefit cuts, and wealth shifted to the top as in America, the result being growing Jewish poverty, hunger and homelessness to the present.
In 1985, all US military aid became grants, what began for economic aid in 1981. Thereafter, generous supplemental aid followed, including after the Gulf and 2003 Iraq wars. The FY 2003 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act included $9 billion in loan guarantees over three years and $1 billion in military grants. Other amounts came earlier. They’ve continued ever since, some open, others covert, affording Israel exclusive preferential treatment.
The "special relationship" remains fixed under Obama, what he affirmed at the June 2008 AIPAC meeting that he’s "a true friend of Israel," felt he was "among friends," stressed that "the bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable today, tomorrow and forever," and, in fact, "as president, I will work with you to ensure that this bond is strengthened." He hasn’t disappointed.
– Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.