Last week, United States President Barack Obama completed arrangements to give Israel its largest military aid package in history. The package, consisting of $38 billion (Dh139.76 billion) spread out over ten years, will ensure that Israel remains the single largest recipient of US foreign assistance.
Of course, US aid to Israel is not new. Israel has been the receiver of US funds since it first ethnically cleansed Palestinians from their homeland in 1948. Since 1967, that money has increased exponentially with Israel now receiving more US taxpayer money than the entirety of sub-Saharan Africa.
But this aid package is not simply a continuation of US military assistance towards Israel, but represents the US’s complete capitulation to Israeli diktats over the years and highlights the mealy-mouthed policies of the Obama administration when it comes to Israel — policies in which they claim they want to see an end to Israel’s military rule and yet undertake actions to continue to facilitate that rule.
Take, for example, Obama’s statements on Israel’s illegal colonies. When he took office in 2008, Obama indicated that he would work hard to end Israel’s military control over Palestine. To this end, he called upon Israel to stop its ongoing theft of Palestinian land and to end its continued colony construction.
Ignoring US calls, Israel pressed ahead, building and expanding colonies with the result that under Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration, more colonies have emerged than the years that preceded Netanyahu’s reign. New colonies were announced even as US Vice-President Joe Biden was visiting occupied Jerusalem.
Today, the Obama administration remains virtually silent about Israel’s continued colony construction and appears, like the administrations that preceded it, to have resigned itself to leave this issue to the next US administration.
Of course, Israel’s violations of international law do not stop at its continued colony construction. Tel Aviv has repeatedly used the very weaponry given by the US to attack Palestinian refugee camps in the Gaza Strip, killing thousands of Palestinians, including hundreds of children. Israel’s siege and blockade of the Gaza Strip is maintained by this very US military weaponry and assistance programme. While the US claims that it wants to see the Gaza Strip rebuilt, nearly 100,000 homes and buildings remain in desperate need of repair since Israel’s 2014 attack on Gaza. The reconstruction has been blocked by Israel.
Domestically, Netanyahu has put into place the most hawkish, racist government in Israel’s history — which is saying a lot, given the high level of racism that pervades the country — including ministers who have likened Palestinians to snakes, calling for the beheading of Palestinians and even boasting of their killings of Palestinians. This, it seems, is also irrelevant to the US.
And if anyone thinks that Obama’s policies are a continuation of the US presidents that preceded him, or that Obama has been diplomatically harsh on Israel, think again: The Obama administration is the only US administration since 1967 that has not censured Israel at the United Nations in any way and which has prevented others from condemning Israel for its violations of international law.
In fact, Israeli machinations extend far beyond denying Palestinians their rights and freedoms. This US aid package comes in the light of repeated Israeli attempts to sabotage the US-Iran nuclear agreement, including an inflammatory speech by Netanyahu before the US Congress.
Every step of the way, Israel has made it clear that it does not and will not listen to America, that it does not and will not care about US interests and that it does not and will not abide by international law. Israel has been sent the message that it can continue to do as it wishes. It can continue to deny freedom, bomb refugee camps and appoint ministers who call for the beheading of Palestinians — and yet continue to receive a steady stream of US assistance.
Instead, this money could have been spent in the US. It is money that could have been allocated to bolster education and health, to build shelters for the homeless rather than fuel more Israeli wars on Palestinians.
Instead of withholding funds and sending a stern message to Israel that it cannot continue to behave with impunity, Washington has sent Israel the message that it will continue to support it, even when Israel disregards international law and snubs US presidents. This is the very definition of rewarding bad behaviour.
Diana Buttu is a Ramallah-based analyst, former adviser to Palestine Liberation Organisation chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian negotiators and policy adviser to Al Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network.