Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Israel: Neocon Welfare State in Denial

by Omyma

Israel, America's sacred cow, can do no wrong. This creates a certain ethical difficulty, because Israel is in fact doing almost everything wrong.

If Our Sacred Cow needs money, the Treasury's coffers are always open, such as back in July 2008:

While almost all federally financed programs were denied any funding increase for the coming year, aid to Israel from the United States will increase thanks to a legislative loophole and some deft maneuvering by pro-Israel lobbyists.

Congress bypassed the normal appropriation process on June 26 when it approved a $170 million raise in military aid to Israel, as part of a larger supplemental spending bill. The increase contrasts with the standstill in budgeting for almost all other government programs.
In August of 2007,
Jerusalem and Washington signed an agreement that should direct $30 billion to Israel over 10 years.
Nancy Pelosi, for one, gave increased aid to Israel her foot on the gas pedal.

The first indication of the special maneuvers came at the annual conference of Aipac, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took the podium.
“I don’t know if Harry or John Boehner told you this earlier,” Pelosi said in her June 4 address, referring to Senate majority leader Harry Reid and House Minority leader John Boehner, “but the first installment of this increase, $170 million, will be in the supplemental appropriation bill the House will consider soon, in fact, that we are considering now, so we can expedite this.”
It was no loopholes barred for Israel. And it is always that way.
On June 19, (2008), Aipac’s director of legislative policy and strategy briefed congressional staffers and explained the need for increasing foreign aid to Israel, stressing that the Jewish state’s expenses on security are higher than any other country in the industrialized world because of the threats it faces.

Bipartisan support for bypassing legislative hurdles was apparent in the June 27 Senate vote, which tallied 92 supporters and only six senators opposing the bill. Aid to Jordan and Mexico are the two other foreign military assistance items included in the bill.

The $170 million raise to Israel will bring the overall military funding to $2.38 billion — the highest of any such package.

The new aid to Israel is part of a larger deal which includes multi-billion-dollar arms deals with Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries, all aimed at strengthening nations seen as crucial in curbing Iran’s influence in the region. That package is an arms deal and does not require the appropriation of any funds.
The Gaza Operation alone cost about NIS 3 Billion, or about $722,705,186.19 in US funds. Yes, that's almost 723 million bucks! Your taxpayer dollars paying to slaughter an unarmed largely civilian population by a heavily-armed sophisticated military operation.

Oh, and every little attempt by Palestinians in their own defense - the horror! - against the Israeli war machine (and home-bulldozing operation), such as the Intifada, is used by Israel as part of their propaganda and lobbying program to obtain even more aid, especially military aid, from the U.S.
The Israeli treasury would prefer to raise money by taking advantage of the rest of the $9 billion in guarantees granted to Israel by the United States in 2003, during the second intifada.

That gave Israel the right to issue $9 billion worth of bonds on the U.S. market, repayment of which is guaranteed by Washington. American backing for the bonds means that the interest Israelis have to pay on the bonds is as low as possible - just a hair above the rates on comparable bond issues backed by the Federal Reserve. Israel has used only $4.4 billion of the guarantees. The last time the state issued bonds in the United States backed by the guarantees was in 2004.
Aside from that purely military package, aid to Israel is huge - "Annual U.S. Aid to Israel Is Double Entire United Nations Budget":
The annual $3.5 billion in U.S. grants and additional $2 billion in U.S. loan guarantees for Israel amount to more than $1,000 per Israeli . That helps explain why Israel's per capita gross domestic product now is somewhere between Spain's and Britain's, and far above anything recorded in the developing world. Yet no Western European country receives U.S. foreign aid, and no developing country receives anything remotely approaching total U.S. aid to Israel.
Another statistic puts the figure per Israeli more conservatively,
The $3 billion or so per year that Israel receives from the U.S. amounts to about $500 per Israeli.
Were one to crunch the numbers for Jewish Israelis, who mostly benefit from that aid, the number would be even higher. And note the above statistic is for direct aid, not including side benefits (which were accounted for in the higher stat).

Some in Congress, however, are reviewing this, a point not lost in Israel:
Rep. Brian Baird, a Democrat from Washington state, visited Gaza last week with fellow Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota and was struck by "the level of destruction, the scope of it, specifically the civilian targets - schools, hospitals, industry."

Baird also said Israel had "apparently willfully destroyed any capacity of the Palestinians to rebuild their own infrastructure."
Baird called for President Obama to re-evaluate U.S. aid to Israel. But is there even a chance of that? Senator John Kerry, who also visited Israel, has made no such re-evaluation calls. He is taking what has always been the U.S.'s No Questions Asked Stance when it comes to Israel. He strongly defended Israel's right to defend itself against the rocket attacks, affirmed that the U.S.'s stance against Hamas remains firmly unchanged, and put the onus of stopping the violence squarely on the head of Hamas - and by implication, the Gazans and the Palestinians.

Kerry represents the status quo, and those who dare to speak or even hint at any change in attitude towards Israel to something more, shall we say, critical, or requiring some kind of responsibility or accountability on the part of Israel... this is blasphemy. It's beyond unpatriotic. It's heresy. Israel is our sacred cow, our holy grail. It is not a nation, it's a cause. And the cause is Zionism.

Without going into what Zionism is or is not, or arguing about its merits or lack thereof, the net result is the creation of Israel as a welfare client of the United States. Without U.S. aid, Israel would be in deep trouble. Even its GDP is all tied up in that aid. In reviewing the figures below, bear in mind the huge difference in size between Israel and the United States. Israel's population is about 7,337,000, of whom about 5,542,000 are Jews. That latter statistic is important, because Arabs are second-class citizens in Israel, and U.S. aid is not really directed at them, and they are generally harassed by the government. Compare that with New York City, which has over 8 million people.

Ifamericansknew has some statistics on this, giving a total (for all time) conservative estimate on U.S. aid to Israel at about $114 Billion.
It must be emphasized that this analysis is a conservative, defensible accounting of U.S. direct aid to Israel, NOT of Israel’s cost to the U.S. or the American taxpayer, nor of the benefits to Israel of U.S. aid. The distinction is important, because the indirect or consequential costs suffered by the U.S. as a result of its blind support for Israel exceed by many times the substantial amount of direct aid to Israel. (See, for example, the late Thomas R. Stauffer’s article in the June 2003 Washington Report, “The Costs to American Taxpayers of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: $3 Trillion.”)
A case can be made that among the "incidental" costs of U.S. support for Israel is in the Iraq War, which is considered in the Arab world to have been waged largely at Israel's behest, protests and explanations to the contrary notwithstanding. I personally think oil had something to do with it, not to mention Haliburton. But indeed Israel fits into the U.S. picture of power in the world, using Israel as a military "hitman", a perennial excuse and threat to weild against the Muslim and Arab world.

And there are still more "costs":
Among the real benefits to Israel that are not direct costs to the U.S. taxpayer are the early cash transfer of economic and military aid, in-country spending of a portion of military aid, and loan guarantees. The U.S. gives Israel all of its economic and military aid directly in cash during the first month of the fiscal year, with no accounting required of how the funds are used. Also, in contrast with other countries receiving military aid, who must purchase through the DOD, Israel deals directly with the U.S. companies, with no DOD review. Furthermore, Israel is allowed to spend 26.3 percent of each year’s military aid in Israel (no other recipient of U.S. military aid gets this benefit), which has resulted in an increasingly sophisticated Israeli defense industry. As a result, Israel has become a major world arms exporter; the Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports that in 2006 Israel was the world’s ninth leading supplier of arms worldwide, earning $4.4 billion from defense sales.
In other words, the U.S. is subsidizing a substantial part of Israel's GDP. The tangled web of U.S.-Israeli financial relations is difficult to determine, since much of it is undocumented or intertwined with the secret, black Pentagon "budget". But the more you look, the more you wonder if the U.S. is really a government for the U.S. people or, perhaps, the Israeli people.
Before 1998, Israel received annually $1.8 billion in military grants and $1.2 billion in economic grants. Then, beginning in FY ‘99, the two countries agreed to reduce economic grants to Israel by $120 million and increase military grants by $60 million annually over 10 years. FY ’08 is the last year of that agreement, with military grants reaching $2.4 billion (reduced by an across-the-board rescission), and zero economic grants. Then, in August 2007, U.S. and Israeli officials signed a memorandum of understanding for a new 10-year, $30 billion aid package whereby FMF will gradually increase, beginning with $2.55 billion in FY ’09, and average $3 billion per year over the 10-year period.
That was Bush's gift to Israel - the creation of a permanent welfare state in the Middle East. What, they worry? No wonder they can mow down Palestinians with impunity. They're our little spoiled child. Or better yet, our little spoiled fetus. After all, they're still fighting for this arcane notion of "right to exist". Something like the right to life. Even though Israel is a recognized state with its own military, economy, government, etc., etc., yet their number one priority is always sucking from that umbilical cord. And the U.S. staunchly refuses to come to term, literally.

The right to exist, in fact, is not to be confused to recognition. Hamas has agreed to recognize Israel formally. It's the "right to exist" clause that they, and more moderate Palestinians refuse. Because it means the right to exist as a Jewish state. That gives them the right to expel thousands of Israeli Arabs now living in Israel. And this is not empty talk.

Here's what Yisrael Beiteinu said:
“We’ll move the border. We won’t have to pay for their [i.e. Israeli Palestinians'] unemployment, or health, or education. We won’t have to subsidise them any longer.”

“When there is a contradiction between democratic and Jewish values, the Jewish and Zionist values are more important.”

“If it were up to me I would notify the Palestinian Authority that tomorrow at 10 in the morning we would bomb all their places of business in Ramallah.”
Israel is a nationalist state based on racism. That's especially sad in light of its inception being as a response to the Holocaust and the atrocities committed against the Jews. That such a nation, such a hope, should end up as a right-wing security state whose existence is based on race supremacy above all, subsidized heavily by the U.S., is something of which Israelis and Americans are both in a state of supreme denial.

Gaza woke some people up. But in Israel, politics is swinging even farther to the right. Patriotism, nationalism, militancy are everything in Israeli politics.

What about the Palestinians' rights? Well, it's not about human rights or cooperation or even peace. It's about power and money. It's a spoiled fetus who always gets its own way, protected by a nation now under stress of economic doom.

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