Moses said to the people in his final charge "I put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life...Be strong and resolute..for the Lord will not forsake you" Deut. 30 and 31. Former US National Debate Champion and Ordained Rabbi tackles issues of Public Policy, Israel, Islamic Terrorism, Antisemitism, Jewish Wisdom and the Chicago Bears
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Why the US Israel relationship is crucial for USA
Aid to IsraelDoes the U.S. get its money’s worth?
Israel and Egypt are the two largest recipients of U.S. aid. For its“participation” in the Gulf War, Egypt was forgiven its indebtedness of $9 billion. Israel pays its bills. It receives $2.8 billion every year. Of that amount, $2.0 billion is for military aid and $0.8 billion for economic aid. It’s fair to ask whether this is a good deal for the American taxpayer.
What are the Facts?
The only democratic country in the Middle East. Israel is the only genuinely democratic state in the Middle East. It is committed to freedom and equality, and the rule of law. It embodies the fundamental values that are in tune with those of America and that America has traditionally supported. Israel’s military and political importance in the Middle East and its strategic position stabilize the entire area, including the oil fields of the Persian Gulf. During the Cold War, it was America’s indispensable rampart against the inroads and expansionist ambitions of the Soviet Union. It is now a western bulwark against the aggressive intents of Iran and other bellicose nations that threaten the interests of the United States. It is a most reliable partner in the promotion of Western strategic interests and in the stabilization of the Middle East. Over 20% of its budget goes for defense, compared to 7% in the U.S. and less than 1% in Japan. Israel has one of the best armies in the world. Its navy and air force are the major deterrent forces in the eastern Mediterranean.
Israel effectively secures NATO’s southeastern flank, without having a single American soldier stationed in its territory. Still, the superb military installations, the air and sea lift capabilities, the equipment and food storage capacity, and the trained manpower to maintain and repair sophisticated U.S. equipment are instantly at hand in Israel. It is the only country in the area that makes itself available to the United States, in any contingency.
Only fraction of aid stays in Israel. There is no other country in the Middle East except Israel that can be considered to have a stable government or populace friendly to the United States. There is much danger that any military aid to Arab countries, and military equipment given or sold to them, will suffer the same fate as the untold billions of dollars and priceless military secrets that were lost to our enemies in the debacle of Iran. Is Saudi Arabia more stable? Egypt? Jordan? Kuwait? Judge for yourself!
Only a fraction of the aid given stays in Israel. By far the largest share remains with American defense contractors. Peter McPherson, former administrator of the Agency for International Development, estimated that every billion dollars of aid to Israel creates 60,000 to 70,000 jobs in the United States.
Compared to the $2.0 billion yearly military aid to Israel, the U.S. contributes more than $130 billion(!) every year to the defense of Europe and more than $30 billion to the defense of Japan, Korea, and the Far East. Over 300,000 U.S. troops are stationed with NATO and over 30,000 U.S. troops in the Far East. In contrast, not one single U.S. soldier needs to be stationed and put at risk in Israel. U.S. military analysts estimate that the U.S. would have to spend the equivalent of $150 billion a year in the Middle East to maintain a force equivalent to Israel’s.
There are many other benefits that the U.S. military derives from Israel. Israel is the only country that has gained battlefield experience with U.S. weapons. This experience is immediately conveyed to the U.S. Enormous quantities of captured Soviet weapons and defense systems were turned over to the U.S. military for analysis. Israel, in the light of its experience, continually modifies U.S. weapons systems. For instance, Israeli scientists have made over 200 improvements in the F-15 alone and similar improvements, mostly in avionics, in later-generation planes. It would be more in line with reality if military aid to Israel were classified as part of the defense budget, rather than as “aid”. Israel is truly America’s unsinkable aircraft carrier in the Middle East. Former President Reagan put it well: “The fall of Iran has increased Israel’s value as perhaps the only remaining strategic asset in the region on which the United States can fully rely.” American aid to Israel is a two-way street. Aid to Israel is America’s greatest defense bargain.
We have a president who has a problem with Israel. According to a New York Times column, "Don't Do It, Bibi," Obama called Bibi Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, in mid-January to demand a promise that Israel would not bomb Iran in the next few months. Obama doesn't want a spike in oil prices before our presidential election. The threat of unhappy voters is moreimportant to Obama than a nuclear Iran. He is more concerned about his re-election than he is about a dirty bomb in the hands of a terrorist that could waste one of our cities, a destabilized Middle East, or a nuclear attack on Israel.
Obama's indifference to Israel's safety is a moral problem, but it is more than that. It poses a grave threat to our national security.
Israel's blessings don't stop with the gifts of individual Jews advancing high tech and medical care. Israeli inventiveness in those fields is of the greatest military importance to us. As a country, Israel does more than any other country in the world to keep the U.S. safe -- literally. This would be part of the foreign policy equation of our White House and State Department, if they didn't suffer fromArabism.
What has Israel done for us? The two most important areas of 21st-century warfare are electronics and cyberspace. Israel is the world leader in both those areas. Because we are mutual allies, Israel shares its knowledge and equipment with us. We would not be as far ahead in military technology, security, intelligence, or counter-terrorism without this crucial strategic alliance.
Compare the benefits of our alliance with Israel to the things we get from our allies in Europe. Europe has chosen to take advantage of us, depending on our taxpayers to protect theirs. They use us for a free ride. Britain supports us, but has no great military budget anymore. Their modern weapons systems depend on us. There is no broad two-way street.
Our alliance with Israel is not only broad and mutual, but it is essential.
Drones? Israel is the world leader in the development of unmanned aerial systems, including drones (invented by an Israeli) for intelligence collection and combat, and has shared with the U.S. military technology, doctrine, and vital experience.
Think of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We use an Israeli-produced tactical radar system to enhance force protection. Israel is "a global pacesetter in active measures for armored vehicle protection," which we use to save our soldiers' lives. Israel invented the short-range rocket defense we use in both wars. Israel has shared its advanced military robotics with us. The lifesaving armor installed in thousands of MRAP armored vehicles used in Iraq and Afghanistan is known as the "Israeli bandage." Groundbreaking innovations including sensors, unmanned aerial vehicle technology, surveillance equipment, and detection devices to seek out IEDs -- all from Israel. American and Israeli companies are working together to jointly produce the world's first combat-proven counter-rocket system.
State-of-the-art missile defense? Israel is America's "most sophisticated and experienced partner in missile defense," helping us from invention to deployment to joint training exercises. The U.S. has deployed an advanced X-band radar system in Israel with more than 100 American military personnel stationed there, as part of our missile defense architecture to protect U.S. forces and our allies in Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Persian Gulf.
Our Navy and Air Force? Israel provides us with a revolutionary helmet-mounted sight that is standard in nearly all frontline Air Force and Navy fighter aircraft. Israel provides us with a gun system for close-in defense of naval vessels against terrorist dinghies and small-boat swarms. Israel provides a port of call for the Sixth Fleet. Israel provides the targeting pods we use on hundreds of Air Force, Navy, and Marine strike aircraft.
Nuclear threats? It was very helpful that Israel prevented Iraq from developing nuclear capability by bombing Osirik in 1981. In 2007, Israel prevented Syria from developing nuclear capability by bombing Syria's secret nuclear facility at al-Kibar. Washington didn't know about the North Korean-built reactor "until Meir Dagan, then the head of the Mossad, Israel's intelligence service, visited President George W. Bush's national security adviser" and told us. And we're evidently relying on Israel to stop Iran from going nuclear -- a difficult and dangerous job we need done but aren't willing to do ourselves.
The war on terror? Israel provides homeland security training for U.S. airport security and police departments across the country. They've worked to help us with national resilience planning to save lives and preserve national security during natural disasters and terror attacks. Israel helps us with counter-terrorism intelligence and cooperation in defeating the terrorist operations of Hamas, Hezb'allah, and al-Qaeda. We have joint Special Forces training and exercises, collaboration on shared targets, and close cooperation among the relevant U.S. and Israeli security for preventive actions and deterrence. We rely on Israeli advances to enhance our capabilities to defend our cyberspace from sabotage. Israeli advances protect our banking, communications, utilities, transportation, and internet infrastructure.
Israel is not a charity case. U.S. presidents are sworn to protect and defend America, not Israel. Sixty years of close cooperation has been maintained because it is to our benefit. It was President Eisenhower who first recognized that Israel was a key strategic asset in the Cold War, a policy Kissinger and Nixon implemented. Post-9/11, this is truer than ever with regards to the new threats facing our citizens.
The U.S.-Israeli relationship makes it easier for our military to do their job. In superficial ways, it makes it harder for the State to do their job. Our State Department is unwilling to confront Arab lies about Israel being the cause of Islamic violence. There is no actual cost to our alliance with Israel, and immeasurable benefits. Unfortunately, our State Department has few Kissingers who can see past Arab propaganda to the realities of national interest.
Israel is a highly effective ally in our fight to defend and protect America. The Israelis do more than any other country in the world to oppose the imposition of the jihadi vision. Europe is succumbing. Obama would follow. The rest of us know that our alliance with Israel helps keep us safe.
Friends with Benefits: Why the U.S.-Israeli Alliance Is Good for America
The bilateral relationship is based on tangible, steadily increasing security and economic interests, not just shared values.
At the final presidential debate of the 2012 campaign season, President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney mentioned Israel some 30 times, more than any other country except Iran. Both candidates called the Jewish state "a true friend," pledging to stand with it through thick and thin. Some political commentators criticized these effusive declarations of support as pandering, suggesting that the candidates were simply going after Jewish and pro-Israel votes.
But if support for Israel is indeed such a political winner, then it's at least in part because the voters know best. The U.S.-Israeli alliance now contributes more than ever to American security, as bilateral cooperation to deal with both military and nonmilitary challenges has grown in recent years. It is a two-way partnership whose benefits to the United States have been substantial. The other, less tangible costs of the U.S.-Israeli alliance -- pale in comparison with the economic, military, and political gains it affords Washington.
U.S.-Israeli security cooperation dates back to heights of the Cold War, when the Jewish state came to be seen in Washington as a bulwark against Soviet influence in the Middle East and a counter to Arab nationalism. Although the world has changed since then, the strategic logic for the U.S.-Israeli alliance has not. Israel remains a counterweight against radical forces in the Middle East, including political Islam and violent extremism. It has also prevented the further proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the region by thwarting Iraq and Syria's nuclear programs.
Israel continues to help the United States deal with traditional security threats. The two countries share intelligence on terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and Middle Eastern politics. Israel's military experiences have shaped the United States' approach to counterterrorism and homeland security. The two governments work together to develop sophisticated military technology, such as the David's Sling counter-rocket and Arrow missile defense systems, which may soon be ready for export to other U.S. allies. Israel has also emerged as an important niche defense supplier to the U.S. military, with sales growing from $300 million per year before September 11 to $1.1 billion in 2006, due to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Israel's military research and development complex has pioneered many cutting-edge technologies that are transforming the face of modern war, including cyberweapons, unmanned vehicles (such as land robots and aerial drones), sensors and electronic warfare systems, and advanced defenses for military vehicles.
The U.S.-Israeli alliance has paved the way for the countries to cooperate on far more than just traditional security issues. In part because of the long-standing political and security relationship between the United States and Israel, most Israelis know the United States and harbor positive feelings toward it. Israeli companies looking for a global market for their products have often viewed their American counterparts as partners of choice. So today, Israeli civilian technological innovations are helping the United States maintain its economic competitiveness, promote sustainable development, and address a range of non-military security challenges.
Dozens of leading U.S. companies have set up technology incubators in Israel to take advantage of the country's penchant for new ideas, which is why Bill Gates observed in 2006 that the "innovation going on in Israel is critical to the future of the technology business." Likewise, Israeli high-tech firms often turn to U.S. companies as partners for joint production and marketing opportunities in the United States and elsewhere, creating tens of thousands of American jobs. And although Israelis make up just three percent of the population of the Middle East, in 2011 Israel was the destination of 25 percent of all U.S. exports to the region, having recently eclipsed Saudi Arabia as the top market there for American products.
U.S. companies' substantial cooperation with Israel on information technology has been crucial to Silicon Valley's success. At Intel's research and development centers in Israel, engineers have designed many of the company's most successful microprocessors, accounting for some 40 percent of the firm's revenues last year. If you've made a secure financial transaction on the Internet, sent an instant message, or bought something using PayPal, you can thank Israeli IT researchers.
Israeli innovators have also come up with novel solutions to the water and food security challenges posed by population growth, climate change, and economic development. By necessity, given the geography of the Middle East, Israel is a world leader in water conservation and management and high-tech agriculture. Israel recycles more than eighty percent of its wastewater -- the highest level in the world -- and has pioneered widely used techniques of conserving or purifying water, including drip irrigation and reverse osmosis desalination. And a number of Israeli companies are leaders in the development of renewable energy sources; BrightSource Industries, for example, is building a solar power plant in California using Israeli technology that will double the amount of solar thermal electricity produced in America. These innovations, bolstered by the substantial American investment in Israel, contribute to long-term U.S. domestic and foreign policy objectives relating to sustainable development.
Beyond leading to largely symbolic UN votes against U.S. positions, Washington's support for Israel has hardly damaged the United States' ties with its Arab and Muslim allies. Standing with Israel certainly has not hobbled U.S. policy toward the region as much as the war in Iraq or Washington's backing of autocratic Arab regimes. Meanwhile, no Arab ally of the United States has ever, as a result of its pro-Israel posture, refused to cooperate with Washington on counterterrorism or denied its requests for access, basing, or overflight rights.
In fact, the U.S.-Israeli alliance has at times helped spur closer U.S.-Arab relations, on the theory that only the United States could convince Israel to make concessions in negotiations; this was part of the logic behind Egypt's shift away from the Soviet Union and toward the United States in the 1970s. And even during the past decade of close U.S.-Israeli cooperation, and despite an impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Arab ties with the United States have largely flourished: bilateral trade and investment are booming, as U.S. exports to the Middle East in 2011 reached an all-time high of $56 billion. Defense cooperation is as close as ever, indicated by the several multi-billion-dollar arms deals that Washington has struck with Gulf allies in recent years. Moreover, several states, including Egypt and Jordan, along with the Palestinian Authority, share intelligence with Israel and at various times have worked behind the scenes to enlist Israel as an intermediary with Washington. This has been the case even with Egypt's post-revolutionary government. All this underscores the fact that self-interest, not ideology, is the primary driver of the Arab states' relations with Washington.
Despite the ties that continue to bind the United States and some Arab countries, the last two years of upheaval have brought turmoil to many of Washington's traditional allies in the region. At a time of great uncertainty, particularly as tensions with Iran mount, the United States is even more likely to depend on its somewhat stable nondemocratic allies, such as Saudi Arabia, and its stable democratic allies, such as Israel and Turkey, to secure its interests in the region. If anything, recent events have reinforced the logic underpinning U.S.-Israeli strategic cooperation.
The benefits to the United States of its relationship with Israel belie the argument that the alliance is based solely on the two countries' shared democratic values, on the popularity of Israel in American politics, or on the elusive pursuit of progress in the peace process. It is a relationship based on tangible interests -- and will remain so for the foreseeable future.
Israel's past successes in incorporating huge numbers of immigrants, bridging deep social divides, and showing remarkable resilience in the face of war and terrorism provide reason to believe that Washington can continue to count on its closest partner in the Middle East, and will continue to benefit from its alliance with the Jewish state.