US aid to Israel - $3.8 billion per year for the next 10 years and carte blanche!
In a shocking demonstration of the sway that Israel wields over the Trump administration and Congress, the US has committed itself to giving Israel a minimum of $3.8 billion per year for the next 10 years. More alarming is the fact that the US will not legally be able to impose any conditions on how the money is spent.
A BILL that guarantees $38 billion in US aid to Israel over the next 10 years is a dramatic departure from the deal offered under President Barack Obama's 2016 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Passed by the US House of Representatives in September, the United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018 effectively rolls back every limitation that Obama placed on the amount of US aid to Israel.
In addition, the House version provides Israel even more perks than the version passed by the Senate in August. The bill now will go back to the Senate for approval, and then to President Donald Trump to be signed into US law.
Most dramatically, this new act would eviscerate the ability of Trump and his successors for the next 10 years to withhold US aid to Israel. Historically, almost every president since Dwight Eisenhower has attempted to withhold such aid at one time or another in order to force Israel to the peace table or to stop Israel from committing human rights abuses or illegal acts such as taking Palestinian land and giving it to Israeli settlers.
In an unprecedented gift of our executive power to Israel, the House has passed for the very first time a law that forces the American president to give Israel a minimum of $3.8 billion per year. We have, in effect, crippled our ability to promote US interests in the Middle East.
Eisenhower was the last American president who managed to use this threat effectively, when he forced Israel to withdraw from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula in 1957.
Notably, President George Bush Senior failed miserably to make good on his threat to delay aid to Israel when its actions threatened a possible peace agreement with neighbouring Arab countries, complaining that he was 'just one little lonely guy' in his battle against pro-Israel lobbyists.
Aid to Israel likely to increase even more
The second most important effect of this act is in Section 103. While the MOU limits the amount of aid we give Israel to the amount agreed upon, in this case $38 billion over 10 years, Section 103 of the current bill removes all limitations on how much we give Israel. Under the new act, instead of $38 billion being the cap, we must now give Israel a minimum of $3.8 billion per year until 2028.
Without a cap, and with incessant lobbying by Israel and her proxies in the United States, the amount we give could conceivably double over the next 10 years. This is a huge coup for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and quite a slap in the face to the Obama administration.
Section 106 will increase Israel's access to a war-reserve stockpile by completely removing the limits on how many precision guided missiles we can give Israel. The existing law set a maximum of $200 million worth of arms from the stockpile per year, to be charged against the agreed aid package.
The House version of the bill differs from the Senate version, replacing the words 'sell' and 'sale' with 'transfer', which appears to open the door for more gifts in excess of the $38 billion. To put this in context, a Tomahawk missile currently costs about $1 million. The media recently lambasted Trump for using 60 such missiles in Syria because of the high cost.
Section 107 calls on the president to prescribe procedures for the rapid acquisition and deployment of precision guided munitions. The House text differs from the Senate version in that it removes all the detailed requirements for Israel to have such rapid acquisition. In the House version, there is only one, extremely broad requirement, that Israel is under direct threat of missiles (in Israel's opinion).
Israel can export US arms
Section 108 of the Act authorises Israel to export arms it receives from the US, even though this violates US law. The Senate version included a provision calling on the president to make an assessment of Israel's eligibility before adding Israel to the exemption list. The House version deleted that requirement, and simply orders the president to grant Israel the privilege.
In fact, Israel is ineligible, having repeatedly made unauthorised sales. US law further forbids granting such an exemption to any country that is in violation of the international nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Israel has refused to sign. Israel is known to be in possession of nuclear weapons, and hence in violation and ineligible for the export exemption. Congress thus reiterates the message that it will force the president to continue funding Israel even when that violates our laws.
Section 201 orders the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to work with the Israel Space Agency, even though an Israeli space official has been accused of illegally obtaining classified scientific technology from a NASA research project. US agencies periodically name Israel as a top espionage threat against the US.
The section also states that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) must partner with Israel in 'a wide variety of sectors, including energy, agriculture and food security, democracy, human rights and governance, economic growth and trade, education, environment, global health, and water and sanitation'.
Israel eludes usual military aid requirement
All countries except Israel are required to spend US military aid on American goods. This ensures that the American economy benefits to some degree from these massive gifts. (Of course, if Americans wished to subsidise these US companies, money could be provided directly to them, and Israel and other countries left to buy their equipment with their own money.)
In the past, Israel has spent 40% of US aid on Israeli companies, at the expense of US industry. Under Obama's 2016 MOU, this percentage was to be decreased over the 10-year span, and eventually Israel's unique right not to use US military aid to purchase items from American companies was to be ended. The new Act eliminates this requirement, putting Israeli economic interests before our own.
Many in Israel had criticised Netanyahu for his aggressive attempts to undermine Obama's Iran nuclear deal, fearing that it would anger the White House and result in a less favourable aid offer. Analysts were particularly worried about what might happen if Trump were elected, since in 2016 he had said that he expected Israel to pay back the security assistance it receives from the US.
Yet just two years later it looks like the Israeli prime minister will obtain everything he sought and more. This is not surprising, since Trump, under extreme political pressure, is increasingly pandering to hardcore Israel supporters like billionaire Sheldon Adelson and Senator Lindsay Graham. (Graham is a top recipient of pro-Israel campaign donations.)
Netanyahu has demonstrated to the world that Israel can continue to act contrary to US interests and still manage to get ever more military aid and greater concessions, greater access to US secrets and technology, and greater control of US foreign policy. An Israeli spokesperson crowed: 'The landmark deal was reached despite budget cuts, including defence cuts, in the US.'
The $38 billion package amounts to $7,230 per minute to Israel, or $120 per second. And that's before Israel advocates and ambitious politicians in the US push it even higher.
Nicole Feied is an American writer and former criminal defence attorney, currently based in Greece. Alison Weir also contributed to this article, which is reproduced from the If Americans Knew blog (israelpalestinenews.org).
*Third World Resurgence No. 333/334, 2018, pp 48-49