On Wednesday Israel and the United States finally signed a new Memorandum of Understanding(MOU), committing the United States to provide Israel with $38 billion in military aid over the ten years spanning 2019-2028. The sum includes $5 billion for missile defense, which Israel had previously had to lobby Congress for each year for a $200 million per year increase in basic aid. The MOU makes some changes to the system by which the US provides aid to Israel, and was also unusually difficult to negotiate. Here are five takeaways: Read more at Facts On The Ground, An FMEP Blog
During the summertime war in Gaza, the two most progressive members of the US Senate stirred up controversy among their backers with expressions of uncritical support for Israel. At a town hall meeting, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the lone Senate independent, responded to a questioner that Israel had “overreacted” with its 52-day bombardment and ground incursion, but then proceeded to justify Israel’s actions with the usual pro-Israel talking points about “missiles fired from populated areas” and “sophisticated tunnels.” An audience member began to shout objections, to which Sanders said, “Shut up.”
Elizabeth Warren, the Democrat from Massachusetts, went further in her defense of Israel at a meeting with constituents on Cape Cod. She said it was right for the United States to send $225 million in aid to Israel, a “democracy controlled by the rule of law,” as the bombing continued. She ventured no criticism at all of the extensive damage to civilian lives and livelihoods in Gaza. When another constituent suggested that future US aid be conditioned on Israel halting settlement construction in the West Bank, Warren replied, “I think there’s a question of whether we should go that far.” Read more at the Middle East Research and Information Project
Israel, AIPAC and their fellow travelers are already hard at work on the next 10-year aid package, which would start in 2017. Aid to Israel is sacrosanct in Washington, but the request for an upgrade faces some new challenges this time. But AIPAC has a powerful tool in a 2008 law passed by Congress. I explore at Inter Press Service.
Many of you who follow me here know that I have been working for several years as writer, Associate Editor and, most recently, Publisher of Souciant, an innovative and groundbreaking online magazine. Today, we launched a new feature, a blog which will feature shorter articles on a variety of topics, much like the diverse content of Souciant.
My first blog post is up there, Israel’s New Frenemies. In it, I take a look at some of the implications of the shifts taking place in the region and what they mean for Israel. Check it out, and keep following us. Oh, and make sure you tell your friends about Souciant.
ABC News has reported on the use of US-made tear gas against protesters in Egypt. Great, it is important for Americans to know the use our aid to Egypt has been put to.
But it’s worth asking where ABC was when Israel has injured unarmed civilians with similar tear gas cannisters. Worse, in the case of Israel people have been killed because Israeli soldiers or border patrolmen have fired the cannisters directly at protesters, which is a violation of both IDF rules of engagement and of the proper procedures specified by manufacturers for thee use of these cannisters.
In April, 2009, Bassam Abu Rahmeh (whose sister, Jawaher recently died after inhaling tear gas at a protest) was killed under those circumstances. Another incident where American citizen Tristan Anderson was hit in the head and spent many months in a coma by a tear gas cannister was also scantily reported in the US and never investigated by any American agency.
Combined Tactical Systems, Inc. makes these tear gas cannisters. It’s an American corporation, but is obviously deeply involved with Israel. How can we know that? Well, this picture sure tells us something:
I’m not knocking ABC; covering the use of the gas in Egypt is important. But isn’t it also time that we ask how our money is being used in Israel too? I support Israeli security and the US helping in this regard. But we shouldn’t be allowing our help to be perverted into use for violations of human rights. Ask the Abu Rahmehs and Tristan Anderson if that’s happening.
Believe it or not, outside of Capitol Hill, America’s $3 billion per year of military aid to Israel actually gets discussed.
On the left, the discussion of aid to Israel is one of several major dividing lines over what are seen as “acceptable” peace groups (J Street, Americans for Peace Now, Churches for Middle East Peace, et al) and those that are not (Jewish Voice for Peace, the US Campaign to End the Occupation). Of course, “acceptable” in this case is decided by the centrist part of the “pro-Israel” contingent, which is doing harm to Israel and Israelis daily, but that’s a matter for another time.
The latter groups call for the US to withhold aid to Israel until it ends its occupation and complies with international law. There are other calls to end aid to Israel which are starker and more hostile to Israel. But in the past year, I have heard more and more activist groups, including some who are sympathetic to Israeli fears and concerns, considering working on campaigns to stop American military aid to Israel.
Indeed, some prominent mainstream voices are starting to weigh in on this issue. Whether one supports ending or threatening aid to Israel or not, the fact that it is being discussed more openly should be welcome in any free society.
There are also those on the right who have long advocated for an end to US aid to Israel. These calls have come more from pundits and individuals than from groups, and are based on entirely different considerations from any of the rather wide spectrum of views mentioned above.
The notion is that, contrary to the view of peace groups, the aid the US gives Israel already constrains its actions and Israel would be better off without the aid but with the freedom to act without US interference.
This notion was most prominently promoted in the “Clean Break” paper. This was an advisory paper prepared for Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996, during Bibi’s first term as Prime Minister by an advisory group of neoconservatives led by Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle. The group consisted of prominent American and Israeli neocons. Continue reading
Didi Remez, at Coteret, posts a translation of an article in Yediot today. The article is by Alex Fishman, who is second to none in Israel for providing important and keen insight into the thinking of Israel’s security establishment.
Fishman gives an enormous amount of background into the wheeling and dealing between US and Israeli leaders over the past few months around the bizarre gift the US has offered to Israel in exchange for a mere 90-day settlement moratorium. He also explains just how Bibi maneuvered the US into it and how he subsequently found himself in a trap alongside the one he snared Obama in.