According to several reports, Israel wants $5 billion per year in military aid for the next 10 years. Jerusalem has been signaling that it wants more money to counter threats it says will arise as a result of the international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, hat in hand, will submit his arms wish list to US President Barack Obama when the two leaders meet at the White House next week.
Now, the cold-eyed political realist would say, “It’s about what we need to defend ourselves and what we need to deter Iran,” as did Israeli Knesset member Michael Oren.
Yet there’s nothing pragmatic or even logical about Netanyahu asking Obama to be compensated for putting up a good fight on the Iran deal. After all, the current White House occupant has engineered a fundamental reassessment of Israel’s strategic value to the United States.
To counter such claims, Obama supporters dutifully cite the Iron Dome Israeli engineered, US funded, mobile air defensive system as a clear example of his enduring commitment to Israel’s security.
For one thing, the proliferation of over a hundred thousand missiles in Gaza, Lebanon and Iran has increased Israeli dependency on US military aid to feed a growing demand for anti-rocket batteries.
Parrying Hezbollah and Hamas and, increasingly, ISIS is not cheap. The operational expense of Iron Dome is $70,000-$100,000 per missile.
With Israel increasingly viewed as a burden for Washington to bare, the Jewish state should remember that it is but one of many allies that the United States has around the world.
This would not be the first time that Israel was left at the alter by a dashing, charismatic world power with a wandering eye.
France too was a once vital ally of Israel’s – until Paris suddenly decided to abandon Jerusalem in favor of the Arab world.
France was Israel’s main weapons supplier until its withdrawal from Algeria in 1966 removed most common interests from the relationship. From that point forward, France became increasingly critical of Israel, especially after the Six-Day War in June 1967, when Charles de Gaulle’s government imposed an arms embargo on the region that mostly affected Israel.
Israel survived and eventually even prospered without French largesse.
Now, with the Obama administration shifting US allegiance away from Israel and towards such regional power players as Turkey and Iran, it’s time for Jerusalem to downgrade its dependence on US aid.
Beyond Obama’s cold shoulder, there are other reasons for Israel to consider going off the US teat, which comes with a rather heavy domestic price tag.
By accepting US aid, the Israeli government often has to go with American-made weapons even if domestic products are better, cheaper or both, causing efficient Israeli producers to lose government contracts. When Israel purchases from the United States, Israeli companies frequently lose contracts abroad.
Washington has also used its leverage to limit Israeli overseas arms sales.
Finally, the guaranteed payment, irrespective of Israel’s defense needs, leaves the Israeli defense establishment with no incentive to become more efficient.
In sheer volume, the amount of aid provided to Israel by the United States is the most generous foreign aid program ever between any two countries. Israel receives more US aid per capita annually than the total annual GNP per capita of several Arab states.
What is perhaps even more unusual is that Israel, like its benefactor, is an advanced, industrialized, technologically-sophisticated country, as well as a major arms exporter.
As such, Israel simply does not need US foreign aid to address its security needs.
An Israeli government independent of US aid would be forced to reduce the size of the public sector, through defense budget cuts, restructuring and increased efficiency in other frameworks.
Ultimately, all continued reliance on the United States has done is stifle Israel’s ability to fully realize the founding principle of the Zionist enterprise: the creation of a sovereign, independent, defensible Jewish homeland.
Read other essay by Gidon Ben-Zvi that have been published by United with Israel here.