Why Bernie Sanders Would Be the Most Pro-Israel President Ever

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (C) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speak while South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg listens during the Democratic Presidential Debate at the Fox Theatre July 30, 2019, in Detroit, Michigan. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

On Tuesday, November 3, 2020, American citizens who put a premium on Israel’s well-being should vote for the Democratic presidential nominee. Over the last few weeks, leading presidential candidates have repeatedly asserted Israel’s sovereign right to conduct its own affairs, in the best interests of the Israeli public. For real.

Politics makes strange bedfellows and advocates for Israel becoming an international pariah are actually doing the Jewish state a great service, inadvertently of course.

The thoroughly anti-Semitic BDS movement is going mainstream, at least within the Democratic Party. Pro-Israel activists recoil at the thought of the Jewish state being boycotted, divested from, and sanctioned. But growing calls for Washington to seriously reconsider its special relationship with Jerusalem have created an opportunity for Israel to assert full control over its national security priorities. Ongoing military aid from the United States to Israel is much worse than unnecessary, it’s become an albatross around the Jewish state’s neck.

This is why American friends of Israel should have applauded when U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said recently that he would “absolutely” consider withholding aid from Israel to get the government in Jerusalem to act differently.

Many of Israel’s staunchest defenders were outraged when the U.S. Senate passed the anti-BDS ‘Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act.’ However, the 21 U.S. Senators who voted against the bill, including Bernie Sanders and four Democratic presidential candidates, should be praised for their accidental dedication to the Zionist enterprise. Their support of a diminished U.S. role in Israel’s affairs isn’t radical at all. Phasing out American military aid to Israel would be little more than a logical extension of a policy that’s been in place for decades.

Israel is already far along in its march towards economic independence from the United States. In the late 1990s, policymakers from both countries agreed to wean Israel off of economic aid. This tough love approach was meant to liberalize the Israeli economy by deflating an Israeli government that had grown fat and inefficient.

And it worked. Prior to the decision to gradually relinquish economic aid, financial assistance from Washington accounted for 20% of Israel’s GDP. Today, aid to Israel from the U.S. represents a mere 1.5% of the total budget.

Yet while Israel no longer needs the United States to remain economically viable, there’s the lingering issue of military aid. Israel continues to suckle at America’s teat to the tune of approximately $3.3 billion every year. Such generosity comes with strings attached: almost three-quarters of the aid to Israel must be spent in the United States on the acquisition of American defense equipment, services and training.

As a result, the Israeli government often has to purchase weapons from the United States even if domestic products are better, cheaper or both, causing Israeli producers to lose government contracts. Furthermore, whenever Israel buys American, Israeli companies frequently lose out on contracts since Washington uses its leverage to limit Israeli overseas arms sales. What is especially peculiar about the financial arrangement between Washington and Jerusalem is that Israel, like its benefactor, is an advanced, industrialized, technologically-sophisticated country.

But an Israeli government independent of U.S. military aid would be forced to reduce the size of the public sector through defense budget cuts, a restructuring that would lead to increased efficiency in other frameworks.

To some extent the American-Israeli relationship is stuck in a time warp. While Israel continues to confront a myriad of dangers to the well-being of its citizens, none of these threats are existential. Israel does not need American aid to survive, much less prosper.

Israel’s friends and allies in the United States should thus channel their anger at the Democratic Party’s presidential candidates productively. Politics today is just another contact sport. American supporters of the Jewish state need to practice a bit of political Judo. Japanese for “the gentle way,” this martial art emphasizes winning in combat by using an opponent’s strength against him, while preserving one’s own mental and physical energy.

Pro-Israeli Americans should relax, limber up, and use the growing strength of the BDS movement against those who seek to delegitimize Israel out of existence.

 

This piece was originally published on July 31, 2019 on Newsmax.com

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