Stop Additional Military Aid to Israel

Walter Pincus wrote an excellent article published in the May 16 edition of The Washington Post (see below). It’s very difficult to calculate—not to mention publish stories on—U.S. military aid to Israel. In his “Fine Print” column, published on page A-13, Pincus asks, “Should the United States put solving Israel’s budget problems ahead of its own?” He points out that the U.S. is adding to its own deficit by borrowing money to finance Israel’s defense. Read the complete column below

--Please thank Walter Pincus for his eye-opening article by e-mailing him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

--Please contact your member of Congress to demand that he or she vote against additional military aid to Israel, and put the priorities of American citizens above those of a foreign country. Is this too much to ask of our elected representatives?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/pincus

Is U.S. going above and beyond for Israel?

By Walter Pincus, Published: May 16, 2012 Washington Post

Should the United States put solving Israel’s budget problems ahead of its own?

When it comes to defense spending, it appears that the United States already is.

Ehud Barak, Israel’s defense minister, will meet Thursday in Washington with Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta to finalize a deal in which the United States will provide an additional $680 million to Israel over three years. The money is meant to help pay for procuring three or four new batteries and interceptors for Israel’s Iron Dome short-range rocket defense program. The funds may also be used for the systems after their deployment, according to the report of the House Armed Services Committee on the fiscal 2013 Defense Authorization bill.

The Iron Dome funds, already in legislation before Congress, will be on top of the $3.1 billion in military aid grants being provided to Israel in 2013 and every year thereafter through 2017. That deal is part of a 10-year memorandum of understanding agreed to in 2007 during the George W. Bush presidency.

“Those funds are already committed to existing large-ticket purchases, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, C-130J transport planes and other items,” according to George Little, spokesman for Panetta. He also said the Israelis had increased their own spending on Iron Dome this year and the U.S. funds are to “augment” their funding.

And there’s more money involved. The House committee version of the defense authorization bill, up for debate on the House floor this week, includes another $168 million “requested by [the] Government of Israel to meet its security requirements,” according to the panel’s report. This money is to be added to three other missile defense systems that have been under joint development by the United States and Israel. The $168 million is in addition to another $99.9 million requested by the Obama administration for those programs.

Israel has had its own debate over what its defense budget should fund. Given its economic problems, the country has cut its defense budget for this year by roughly 5 percent, with another 5 percent cut planned for next year. Its defense experts have debated whether it was more important to put scarce funds into offensive weapons that could destroy enemy missiles or into missile defense systems to protect civilian and military targets. In contrast to the United States, it has also raised taxes on wealthier citizens and upped its corporate tax rate.

The Israeli military has long-term plans to deploy 13 to 14 Iron Dome batteries to defend military and civilian targets against rockets launched from Gaza and Lebanon. If there is any doubt that the U.S. Congress will continue to support the program, one only has to look at the Iron Dome Support Act. The bill was introduced in the House in March by Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Calif.), the ranking minority member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, along with the panel’s chairman, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.). A companion measure is in the Senate.

The first four batteries of Iron Dome, deployed last year in towns near the Gaza Strip, have proved successful in protecting against Hamas’s rocket attacks. Israeli military sources have said the system had more than a 70 percent success rate last month against incoming rockets.

In early 2007, then-Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz chose Iron Dome to meet the short-range rocket threat. Testing began in 2008, and by January 2010 the system showed it could be effective.

In May 2010, President Obama announced he would ask Congress to add $205 million to the fiscal Pentagon budget for the production phase of Iron Dome. The funds were approved, and in March 2011 the Israel Defense Forces declared the first batteries operational.

Iron Dome was developed and built by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., an Israeli government-owned, profit-making company that, since 2004, has been headed by retired Vice Adm. Yedidia Yaari, the former commander in chief of the Israel Navy. Rafael’s board chairman is retired Maj. Gen. Ilan Biran, former general director of the Ministry of Defense. In August, Rafael joined Raytheon Co. to market the Iron Dome system worldwide. The two are already partners in one of the other anti-missile systems that is being jointly run by Israel and the Pentagon.

The House committee report noted that the United States will have put $900 million into the Iron Dome system if the full $680 million is used on the program “yet the United States has no rights to the technology involved.”

It added that Missile Defense Agency Director Lt. Gen. Patrick J. O’Reilly should explore opportunities to enter into a joint production arrangement with Israel for future Iron Dome batteries “in light of the significant investment in this system.”

So here is the United States, having added to its own deficit by spending funds that it must borrow, helping to procure a missile defense system for Israel, which faces the threat but supposedly can’t pay for it alone.

To add insult to injury, Pentagon officials must ask the Israeli government-owned company that is profiting from the weapons sales — including Iron Dome — if the United States can have a piece of the action.

For previous Fine Print columns, go to washingtonpost.com/fedpage.

 

On www.antiwar.com today, Philip Giraldi, executive director for the Council for the National Interest, writes about H.R. 4133. Although it is not a funding measure per se, “The House bill basically provides Israel with a blank check drawn on the U.S. taxpayer to maintain its ‘qualitative military edge’ over all of its neighbors combined,” Giraldi explains. It also calls for “an expanded role for Israel” within NATO. The only congressmen to vote against the measure were Reps. Ron Paul (R-TX) and John Dingell (D-MI).

http://original.antiwar.com/giraldi/

House Passes Stealth Legislation

by Philip Giraldi, May 17, 2012

Go to Google and type in “H.R. 4133.” You will discover that, apart from a handful of blogs and alternative news sites, not a single mainstream medium has reported the story of a congressional bill that might well have major impact on the conduct of United States foreign policy. H.R. 4133, the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012, was introduced into the House of Representatives of the 112th Congress on March 5 “to express the sense of Congress regarding the United States-Israel strategic relationship, to direct the president to submit to Congress reports on United States actions to enhance this relationship and to assist in the defense of Israel, and for other purposes.” The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) reportedly helped draft the bill, and its co-sponsors include Republicans Eric Cantor and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Democrats Howard Berman and Steny Hoyer. Hoyer is the Democratic whip in the House of Representatives, where Cantor is majority leader. Ros-Lehtinen heads the Foreign Affairs Committee.

The House bill basically provides Israel with a blank check drawn on the U.S. taxpayer to maintain its “qualitative military edge” over all of its neighbors combined. It requires the White House to prepare an annual report on how that superiority is being maintained. The resolution passed on May 9 by a vote of 411–2 on a “suspension of the rules,” which is intended for non-controversial legislation requiring little debate and a quick vote.

A number of congressmen spoke on the bill, affirming their undying dedication to the cause of Israel. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas was the only one who spoke out against it, describing it as “one-sided and counterproductive foreign policy legislation. This bill’s real intent seems to be more saber-rattling against Iran and Syria.” Paul also observed that “this bill states that it is the policy of the United States to ‘reaffirm the enduring commitment of the United States to the security of the State of Israel as a Jewish state.’ However, according to our Constitution, the policy of the United States government should be to protect the security of the United States, not to guarantee the religious, ethnic, or cultural composition of a foreign country.” Paul voted “no” and was joined by only one other representative, John Dingell of Michigan, who represents a large Muslim constituency.

It is interesting to note what exactly the bill pledges the American people to do on behalf of Israel. It obligates the United States to veto resolutions critical of Israel, to provide such military support “as is necessary,” to pay for the building of an anti-missile system, to provide advanced “defense” equipment (including refueling tankers, which are offensive), to give Israel special munitions (i.e., bunker-busters, which are also offensive), to forward deploy more U.S. military equipment to Israel, to offer the Israeli air force more training and facilities in the U.S., to increase security- and advanced-technology-program cooperation, and to extend loan guarantees and expand intelligence-sharing (including highly sensitive satellite imagery). Actually, there’s even more included, and I may have missed the kitchen sink. But the objective is to provide Israel with the resources to attack Iran, if it chooses to do so, while tying the U.S. and Israel so closely together that whatever Benjamin Netanyahu does, the U.S. “will always be there,” as our president has so aptly put it.

But the scariest bit of the bill is its call for “an expanded role for Israel within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), including an enhanced presence at NATO headquarters and exercises.” If Israel becomes part of NATO, which is clearly Congress’s intent, the U.S. and other members will be obligated to come to the aid of a nation that is expanding its borders and is currently engaged in hostilities with three of its neighbors. Israel has also initiated a series of regional wars. Whether NATO membership for Israel would benefit anyone is questionable, but it is something the neocons have been seeking for years, to turn Israel’s wars into a new crusade against the Muslim world.

And then there is the congressional propensity to conceal additional spending in legislation that is normally passed without a great deal of debate. It is perhaps no coincidence that on May 7 the Republican spokesman, the redoubtable Howard “Buck” McKeon, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, released his party’s proposal for increased defense spending (yes, increased) for 2013. McKeon, who has never served in the military and who was holds a bachelor of science degree in animal husbandry from Brigham Young University, is an uber-hawk who relies heavily on campaign contributions from the defense industry. Perhaps “Buck” should consider changing his sobriquet to “Warbucks,” but as he probably lacks a sense of humor, it would be wasted on him.

Included in the proposed defense bill is a cool $1 billion for Israel to upgrade its missile defenses. Money for Israel inserted in the U.S. defense budget suggests that Congress believes that defense of the U.S. and defense of Israel are pretty much conjoined at the hip. That’s on top of the $3 billion Tel Aviv already receives and the numerous defense co-production programs that it benefits from, which will clearly be expanded if 4133 is any indication. The media predictably underreported the largesse for Israel with a couple of lines hidden away in a story in The Washington Post about overall defense spending.

Many who follow the issue have known for some time that Congress, generally speaking, will unhesitatingly do anything to benefit Israel and its supporters, be damned the consequences for the rest of us. That they do it without any public scrutiny is unforgivable and is as much the fault of the media as it is of the devious ways of America’s legislature. If Congress wants to give Israel the type of guarantees that would require Washington to support Tel Aviv’s foreign and security policy, there should be a free and open debate with the American people understanding clearly what such a commitment means in terms of costs and consequences, not a “suspension of rules” stealth legislative package. If Buck McKeon and his friends on the House Armed Services Committee want to give Israel a billion dollars and actually believe it serves the U.S. national interest, why do they hide it in a procurement bill for the defense of the United States? If historians 100 years from now seek to explain how a great power committed seemingly intentional national suicide, they will have to look no further than the voting record of the U.S. Congress.

--Please contact your member of Congress to demand that he or she vote against additional military aid to Israel, and put the priorities of American citizens above those of a foreign country. Is this too much to ask of our elected representatives?