Last week, 83 of 100 US Senators signed a letter urging United States President Barack Obama to increase military aid to Israel before the end of his presidency. Although the senators did not specify an amount, Israel is currently seeking $4.5 billion (Dh16.55 billion) annually, an increase from the $3.1 billion it currently receives from the US in a 10 year arrangement that is due to expire in a year. Obama, in order to appease Israel for the Iran deal, has indicated that he will once again renew military aid to Israel.
With a per capita gross domestic product of $36,000, higher than that of several US states, Israel is hardly in need of foreign assistance. And yet, as it currently stands, Israel is the largest recipient and the largest cumulative recipient of US foreign military assistance since the Second World War, with the US providing Israel more than $125 billion since that time and, last year alone, more than 52 per cent of the US military assistance budget.
The outrageous sum provided to Israel is not the only repugnant aspect of US foreign assistance to Israel: Unlike other beneficiaries of US assistance, Israel is the only country that is allowed to use a significant portion of its military aid to purchase its own weapons. In other words, an estimated 25 per cent of the money that the US gives Israel is used for Israel to buy Israeli-made weapons. And while US legislation requires that each nation certify that the arms that they receive are used for legitimate “self-defence”, when it comes to Israel, such checks and balances are always ignored.
Over the lifetime of the constant supply of weapons to Israel, only once was a challenge lobbied against Israel’s use of American-funded weaponry — during the brutal Israeli attack on Gaza in 2009 — when it was conveniently ignored. Of course, Americans have also been killed at the hands of Israelis using American-funded weaponry, most notably Rachel Corrie, but when it comes to Israel, the lives of American citizens are secondary.
Israel supporters have put forth a number of reasons for the need for increased money to Israel. The ideas range from the absurd — that Israel is in need of more “security” to the more absurd — that increased aid will force Israel to return to negotiations with Palestinians. But these two made-up fantasies do not reflect reality. Israel possesses the most weapons in the Middle East and is the sole nuclear weapon holder in the Arab Middle East. Unlike other countries around the world, it has refused to submit to inspections and has never faced any UN-imposed or other sanctions for failing to do so, with its rogue behaviour perpetually rewarded rather than punished. And while Israel is made to feel “more secure” Palestinians are relegated to having no security with Israel frequently testing its new weapons on Palestinians. Moreover, as history has shown, increasing US-funded weaponry has done absolutely nothing to end Israel’s military rule over Palestine and its nearing 50 year denial of freedom.
To the contrary: The constant supply of US-made or US-funded weapons directly correlates to maintaining Israel’s brutal occupation over Palestinian land and its denial of Palestinian freedom — you cannot have one without the other.
American politicians, like the 83 senators who signed that letter, have, for decades, blindly supported Israel because it was either cost-free or lucrative, depending on how much they cared to pander to Israel and its political lobby. The two front-runners in this American presidential election, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, have similarly followed suit with one commentator noting that Hillary took her pandering to “a new level” during her speech before American Israel Public Affairs Committee and with Trump declaring that “there has never been a greater enemy to Israel than Barack Obama”.
But attitudes in the US are changing: Campuses across the country have passed resolutions, demanding that their universities divest from Israeli apartheid. Several churches have followed the same path as have several unions. This US action follows that of Palestinians’ worldwide support for the growth of the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions movement. It is only a matter of time before there becomes a cost attached to US support for Israel and when US citizens rightfully ask why so much money is spent on denying millions of Palestinians their freedom when the money could instead be spent on ensuring that American lives are enriched at home.
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.