Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Toward an Independent Foreign Policy for Israel*

Paul Eidelberg

In my report of March 9, I said that with Barack Obama in the White House, the American government has become an overt enemy. I noted that 0bama has made appointments of persons who are openly hostile to Israel. Like him and various Israeli politicians, they advocate an Arab-Islamic state in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. This would lead to Israel’s demise.

Whatever the motives of the Israelis, they are obviously influenced by Washington’s commitment to Palestinian statehood. More fundamental is their perception of Israel’s military and economic dependence on the U.S. They see an umbilical chord with a one-way flow of nutrients from America to Israel. This image distorts reality because America receives enormous nutrients from Israel. Trouble is, no one, to my knowledge, has made a strategic assessment of this two-way flow; hence neither government has adequate knowledge of their mutual dependency.

The citizens of both countries are ignorant of how much each country contributes to the well-being of the other. Virtually everyone believes Israel could not survive without America. But is this belief based on a solid assessment of Israel’s military capabilities? After all, Israel is a nuclear power, and despite its minute size, its Gross Domestic Product exceeds that of all its neighbors—in fact, is the average of countries in Europe.

Although American politicians speak of Israel as America’s “most reliable ally in the Middle East,” no one takes this vague expression seriously. To be a reliable ally, Israel must be capable of defending itself. Why, then, does Washington want to shrink Israel back to indefensible pre-1967 borders? Obviously, Washington has interests that compete with if not outweigh Israel’s value as a U.S. ally—for example, Saudi oil and purchases of U.S. arms.

Washington should be reminded that

If [Israel] were to simultaneously hit only five of the many sensitive points in Saudi Arabia’s downstream oil system, th[at] could put the Saudis out of the oil-producing business for about two years…. Simply blowing of Abqaiq’s up the East-West pipeline’s Pump Station One to smithereens …. would be enough to bring the world’s oil-addicted economies to their knees, America’s along with them. [Robert Baer, Sleeping with the Devil.]

Neither the U.S. nor Europe should disregard Israel’s nuclear capacity, and what Israel, small as it may be, is capable of doing if driven to desperation. Its air force and navy extend the country’s effective size and range of power.

Israel’s timid government plays mum about this power. It prefers to make Israel appear as a teddy bear—as if meekness endears Israel to America and Europe and does not arouse Arab states to obtain or develop nuclear weapons. Syria and Iran have made nonsense of Israel’s meek image. Dare Israel develop an image that intimidates Europe where anti-Semitism or hatred of Israel is rampant? Europe’s hatred is not the result of Israel’s nuclear power, which endangers no European country—the reason why Europe does not fear and respect Israel.

As for the United States, an anti-Israel lobby in Washington wants to terminate the (misleading) image of America’s pro-Israel foreign policy. This lobby has the ear of Barack Obama who certainly does not have an adequate understanding of the extent to which America’s well-being depends on a secure and flourishing Israel.

Hence, we need to reveal Israel’s contribution to America, first, by quoting Dr. Joseph Sisco, a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern affairs. Sisco told Israeli author Shmuel Katz, “I want to assure you, Mr. Katz, that if we were not getting full value for our money, you would not get a cent from us.”

● For FY2006, U.S. military grants to Israel was $2.28 billion (= $2.28B). Since Israel’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2006, this aid to Israel was less than 1.5% of its GDP!

● Viewed over a longer time period—say between 1991 and 2006—total U.S. military grants and economic assistance to Israel was approximately $47.5B.

What has the U.S. received from Israel in return?

● Israel must spend about 74% of U.S. military aid in the United States, where it provides jobs for an estimated 50,000 American workingmen.

● Total exports from America’s 50 states to Israel between 1991and 2006 was $102.4B—more than twice the $47.5B Israel received in U.S. aid during this period. The annual average of U.S. exports to Israel was $6.4B per year, more than twice the average American aid package. In fact, total exports to Israel from the 50 states in 2006 was almost $11B—more than four times the U.S. military-economic aid package!

● Moreover, U.S. military aid to Israel creates a demand for, and the purchase of, tens of billions of dollars worth of U.S. weaponry by Saudi Arabia and other Arab states. U.S. grants to Israel—far from burdening the American tax payer—actually enriches the U.S. economy. Arms manufacturers know this. So do Senators who represent states in which corporations such as Boeing and Lockheed are located. They have vested interests in opposing any sanctions against Israel if it were to take a more independent stand against Palestinian statehood.

● According to Gen. George Keegan, a former chief of U.S. Air Force Intelligence, between 1974 and 1990, Israeli aid to America was worth between $50-80B in intelligence, research and development savings, Soviet weapons systems captured and transferred to the Pentagon, and testing Soviet military doctrines up to 1990 when the USSR collapsed. Senator Daniel Inouye put it this way: “The contribution made by Israeli intelligence to America is greater than that provided by all NATO countries combined.”

● Yoram Ettinger reports: Israel relays to the U.S. lessons of battle and counter-terrorism, which reduce American losses in Iraq and Afghanistan, prevent attacks on U.S. soil, upgrade American weapons, and contribute to the U.S. economy. Innovative Israeli technologies boost U.S. industries.

● The vice-president of the company that produces the F16 fighter jets told Ettinger that Israel is responsible for 600 improvements in the plane’s systems, modifications estimated to be worth billions of dollars, which spared dozens of research and development years.

● Without Israel, the U.S. would have to deploy tens of thousands of American troops in the eastern Mediterranean Basin, at a cost of billions of dollars a year.

● In 1981, Israel bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor, thus providing the U.S. with the option of engaging in conventional wars with Iraq in 1991 and 2003, thereby preventing a possible nuclear war and its horrendous consequences.

● In 2005, Israel provided America with the world’s most extensive experience in homeland defense and warfare against suicide bombers and car bombs. American soldiers train in IDF facilities and Israeli-made drones fly above the Sunni Triangle in Iraq, as well as in Afghanistan, providing U.S. Marines with vital intelligence that saved many American lives.

Finally, since Israel has phased out economic aid, U.S. military aid is only 1.3% of Israel’s GDP! This figure would be zero if Israel did not spend billions on security fences and military redeployments resulting from territorial retreats.

This is only a thumbnail sketch. We need experts to assess other types of U.S. contributions to Israel’s economy and vice-versa. Hence, we need to know and translate into monetary terms:

The number of engineers and scientists Israel provides the U.S.
The medical technology Israel provides the U.S. and the number of lives saved thereby.
The agricultural technology Israel provides the world in general, and the U.S. in particular, and the number lives saved by this technology.
The U.S.- Israel scientific research projects.
The U.S.-Israel military projects.
The monetary significance of U.S-Israel tourism.

These are just a few items that need to be assessed. The public in Israel as well as in America should be informed in quantitative and qualitative terms what Israel contributes to the security, health, and economic prosperity of the United States. Once this research is complete, Israel—of course depending on wise and courageous leadership—will be able to pursue a foreign policy vis-à-vis the U.S. that does not affect the borders of the country.

*Edited Transcript of the Eidelberg Report, Israel National Radio, March 16, 2009.

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