Why all this fuss about Israel? Aren't they nothing but trouble for America?
To hear a lot of what's going around these days, Israel is at the heart of the problems we have with the Muslim world, and things would be just fine if we became more 'balanced'...or translated, became more pro-Arab and curtailed our support for those pushy, stubborn Jews. Besides, aren't they an ungrateful ally? Certainly President Obama, John Kerry and a lot of others in Washington say things like that all the time. Although they dress it up a little, that is essentially what they believe. Israel is a problem, not an asset.
ISIS, terrorism against the west, Iran's belligerent behavior, the problems in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and especially with Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are all mostly Israel's fault. And murdering Jews is just a natural reaction to 'occupation', although no one's country is being occupied in any usual sense of the way the word is used. Gaza is an example of how bizarre and distorted the idea of Israel's 'occupation has become.
Israel pulled every Jew living in the area out, with effusive guarantees from the EU ,UN and the Bush Administration that it would never be allowed to become a security problem for Israel. Yet the Jewish State is still regularly referred to as 'the occupying power' by the UN and the so-called International Community.And that 'occupation is based on Israel's blockade of Hamas that even the UN called fully legal, a blockade that was only necessary because of the failure by these other entities to honor those those same security guarantees made to Israel to get them to pull out of Gaza in the first place! You literally can't make this stuff up.
Just as an aside, one reason many Israelis aren't the least bit interested in giving up any more land no matter what the UN or anyone else says is precisely because of what happened with Gaza. Why make themselves even more vulnerable for guarantees that won't be kept and demonization as 'occupiers' even after they've left?
Another homily heard often is that Israel can't survive unless it retreats to what people call the 'pre-1967' borders.' That seems fair, doesn't it?
What isn't said much is that those were never borders at all, but simply cease fire lines from 1948 between countries still then in a state of war. Going back to those ceasefire lines would push Israel into an indefensible enclave,turn half a million its citizens into refugees, divide its capitol and make the Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem and Hebron off limits forever to Jews. And it would also give up high ground within easy missile and artillery range of its airports and the country's most populated areas to people who make no mistake about being genocidal when it comes to Israel's Jews.
That, after all is what President Obama, the UN and the EU are saying with their insistence on a two state solution based on those 1948 ceasefire lines, and it actually appears that the Obama Administration is willing to sign on to or at least abstain from vetoing a new UN resolution sponsored by France to insist on exactly that.
But hey, isn't that Israel's problem, not ours? So what?
Let's take an objective look. What difference does what happens to Israel make to us here in America? Why should we care? Why is what happens to Israel important to the US? If Israel somehow ceased to exist, would it matter to America? I mean, we give them all that aid money. Why not spend it at home? And who knows, maybe if we weren't giving all that aid to Israel, we might not have all those problems with the Muslim world!
There's a very well organized, well funded effort going on now to convince people of exactly that. Could they be right? Let's find out.
And to do that, let's put aside any of those slooshy considerations of fairness, justice, religion or humanitarian principles and go for the cold, hard, self-serving realpolitik mindset to find out if what happens to Israel is important to the US:
Wouldn't America be more secure if we weren't supporting Israel?
Like it or not, Israel occupies some very strategic real estate in the Levant. It is in a position to safeguard NATO's soft underbelly, especially significant since most of the NATO countries lack any significant military component...and also would have a significant political problem convincing their electorates to support any kind of military action anyway, given whom their electorates increasingly are composed of these days.
As tired of the Middle East as many Americans are, this is an increasingly strategic part of the world where whatever allies we might have had or thought we had among the Sunni Arab states are either alienated, ultimately untrustworthy or weak. Israel is none of these things, and unless you're like John Kerry or our president and are convinced that Iran is now going to be just a peace loving pussycat and ISIS isn't really a major problem, the value of having a strong ally in the region with a powerful military and superior HUMINT on the ground is obvious. Here's a few examples of how that's worked in the past and how it continues to work now:
- Israel pushed the Soviets out of the Middle East during the Cold War and provided America a first hand look at the latest Soviet weapons and technology...all without the cost of a single American soldier. When the then new Soviet Mig 21 was knocking our pilots out of the air in Vietnam, it was Israel who bribed an Iraqi pilot to bring one to Israel, which they turned over to the United States so we could figure out its weak points and stop the carnage.
- Israel saved literally thousands of American lives by taking out Saddam Hussein's nuclear reactor at Osirak. Yes, they did it for their own reasons, but if not for that, the casualty lists from the first Gulf War ten years later would have been very different if it could have even been fought at all. And just imagine what would be going on now in Syria if Israel hadn't knocked out the nuclear facility Basher Assad got from North Korea back in 2007 over the Bush Administration's objections... and ISIS or some other bad actor got it's hands on it?
- Israel has a first class intelligence service in the Mossad and its native Arabic and Farsi speakers contribute immeasurably to US intel by adding to its access in the region and by adding the dimension of `HUMINT'-human intelligence - on the ground. General George Keagan, former head of U.S. Air Force Intelligence, once stated in Congress that "Israel is worth five CIAs," based on the value of intelligence passed to America. Essentially, Israel is a security bulwark and a vital window on America's enemies in the region...unless, of course you agree with President Obama that everything's just wonderful when it comes to countries like Iran and we can rely on Iran's self inspections when it comes to their nuclear weapons program.
- Israel is one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world. It has been and continues to be a major partner of the US in weapons technology in numerous joint projects and the US has access to the fruits of some of the most sophisticated technological installations in the world at Tel-Aviv University and the Technion, Israel's MIT. A lot of those projects have saved US lives and enhanced our own military. Numerous Israeli innovations are now commonly used by our troops on the ground. For example, there's the lightweight helmet Israel developed that's more bullet resistant than the one we had. Our troops use it. There's advanced anti anti tank systems, the Green Pine radar, the AGM-142 Have Nap (AKA the Popeye Missile), the Marine Corps Laser Range Finder made by Israel's Elbeit Systems, the SIMON breach rifle grenade...again, it's a pretty long list.
- Israel also hosts America's Strategic Arms Depot free of charge on its territory, so that American troops can deploy in the region quickly and have their armor, supplies, arms and equipment ready and waiting for them when they get there if we have to deploy our troops there in a hurry. The US arranged that after the First Gulf War, when we had to hire merchant ships to get the stuff over there because we lacked merchant marine capacity. It amounts to a base on foreign territory that America gets for free, and without having to deploy any US troops. Going price for that? Based on what other bases cost us, around $4-5 billion per year....a lot more if you include the cost of stationing personnel there. And that's assuming we could find another reliable country in the region we could trust to let us do it. For instance, we have bases in Bahrain, KSA and Turkey, but those countries have all imposed restrictions on our deploying US forces there or using them for military operations at one time or another.
And Israel's one of the few allies we have who routinely makes its facilities available to US forces when needed, its ports, airfields and air space. That also comes in quite handy.
So all things considered, I'd have to say it looks like American security is actually enhanced because of our relationship with Israel, not the other way around.
But what about all that money we give Israel?
'Give' Israel? By law, almost all of that $3.5 billion Israel receives has to be spent here in America, a restriction not many US aid recipients, Pakistan ($5-7 billion) and Egypt ($1.5 billion) for example are subject to. Israel means jobs and prosperity for America's defense industry.
Again, you also have to consider the value of the Strategic Arms depot, free use of Israel's facilities,and HUMINT and the value of all those joint weapons projects. That all adds up to a lot more money than Israel gets in aid from the US.
And here's another aspect to be considered. This partnership allows the US to pressure Israel's defense companies to withdraw from lucrative contracts around the world. One recent example is the $13 billion Polish missile defense contract. The Poles really liked David's Sling, developed by Israel's Rafael and they also had their own issues with Obama, so they were ready to accept Rafael's bid and buy. The US pressured Rafael to withdraw its bid so Raytheon could get the contract. That's by no means the only time this has happened.
All this adds up to Israel being one of America's few foreign policy bargains. The aid is less than one tenth of one percent of the Federal budget and the US receives far more in return than it shells out.
OK, so Israel's a bargain. But maybe we should just get out of the Middle East altogether. We'd have much better relations with the Muslim world if we did that and didn't support Israel, wouldn't we? And wouldn't that stop terrorism against the U.S.?
Is that really how it would work? President Obama and two successive Secretaries of States, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry have operated on that principle for the last 7 years. President Obama famously said he wanted to create 'distance' between America and Israel, and no objective observer can doubt that he's succeeded to a large degree. The EU has followed the same policy to an even greater extent for some time. How has that worked out? Is the EU experiencing peace, tolerance and kumbaya from their own Muslim populations let alone groups like ISIS? Are we?
If Israel were to magically disappear tomorrow, would ISIS, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Taliban, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Jaish Islami, al-Nusra and all the rest go out of business?
Even after getting $150 billion in cash, the sanctions watered down and eventually ended and getting literally everything they wanted at the negotiating table on their illegal nuclear program, is Iran less aggressive or more aggressive towards the U.S.? Did President Obama's decision to create that distance between America and Israel, ignore the Green Revolution and the Iranian government's hideous crackdown on dissidents seeking democracy lead to a less belligerent Iran? Have the Iranians even stopped the massive public chants of 'death to America' or referring to America as the Great Satan?
The answers are obvious. Iran is far more aggressive, hostile and belligerent towards America than they've ever been, even to the point of refusing to cooperate with America against a common enemy in ISIS. There's no reason at all to think this behavior on Iran's part would change one iota if America completely cut off all ties with Israel. Actually, with Israel weakened or even removed as a check to Iran's ambitions, Iran's hostility and warlike behavior would probably even increase. In any event, if things got that hot the Israelis might very well resort to some drastic means to win out...and we might not like the results.
Another thing about cutting all ties with Israel has to do with how it would affect the geo-political balance. Most Israelis understand that the chief benefit of their relationship with the U.S. is not financial but American back up strategically and in international forums like the UN. If that ends, as President Obama and Secretary Kerry have hinted, how would that affect America?
Israel has very good strategic and trade ties with China, and fairly decent strategic relations with Russia. Wouldn't America cutting strategic ties be an incentive to Israel to form stronger ones with them? How would that affect the U.S.? And how would the spectacle of America dumping a long time ally affect how other U.S. allies looked at their own relationships with America?
Another allegation that's fairly common these days in DC is that al-Qaeda and ISIS use Israel as a recruiting tool. To a certain extent that's true to a degree now, but it's also true that neither group used 'Palestine' as a marketing tool until after it became a common talking point in certain circles emanating out of the White House and in media outlets like the NY Times. Osama bin-laden and al-Qaeda didn't even mention 'Palestine' until years after 9/11 and ISIS was far more interested in Basher Assad and the corrupt, oppressive Shi'ite dictatorship we put in power in Iraq. For that matter, ISIS wasn't even particularly hostile to the US until President Obama started bombing them.
Any casual examination of history shows the fallacy of abandoning a loyal, powerful ally to appease an enemy, especially during wartime. Nor would it meaningfully improve relations between the US and the Arab world. The proof of that is to examine the US relationship with the Arab World before we became one of Israel's main allies in 1970, after the `67 Six-Day War. President Dwight Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles pursued a pro-Arab, cool to Israel policy as part of their Cold War strategy to keep the Soviets out of the Arab world. As even Eisenhower admitted, it failed utterly.
Getting rid of what the Muslim world refers to as the Little Satan would just weaken the Big Satan, America and deprive us of one of our strongest and most valuable allies. And a victory over the hated Jews would only embolden America's enemies.
Take Israel out of the equation and America would manage. So undoubtedly would Israel without America as an ally. But nothing would change except we would have weakened ourselves to the delight of our enemies.