Monday, September 26, 2016
For Israel, Signing Obama's New Us-Israel Arms Deal Was A Mistake
After a long negotiation, Benyamin Netanyahu signed a new MOU with President Barack Hussein Obama on a military aid package for U.S. military aid to Israel over the next ten years.
While it was touted as 'an unprecedented increase it military aid' to Israel, in reality, it was a decrease, and one with stringent and dangerous conditions that Netanyahu should have rejected outright.
Before we get to the details, let me dispose of some nonsense coming from figures on the Israeli left like Israel's former Labor Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, that Israel would have gotten a better deal if Netanyahu hadn't opposed Obama's Iran deal and made that 2015 speech to a joint session of Congress to try and head it off.
President Obama has made it clear from the beginning of his presidency that he loathes Israel and wanted to 'create distance' between the U.S. and Israel to appease the Muslim world. End of story.
Nothing Netanyahu could have done short of surrendering to all of Obama's demands, creating 500,000 Jewish refugees and moving Israel to unsafe borders would have changed that, and President Obama would still have insisted on appeasing Iran with farcical Iran deal whether Netanyahu had stayed home and kept his mouth shut or not. Providing billions of dollars to Israel's most genocidal enemy and giving them a clear path to nuclear weapons was something Obama was always going to do, just like his efforts to empower Islamists in the region that ended up destabilizing the Middle East was always something he was going to do.
That, of course is one huge reason for rejecting the agreement. The Israelis should never have taken seriously any offer coming from President Obama, let alone signed on. This was just a convenient political smokescreen in an election year designed to appear to counteract Obama's progress in making U.S. support for Israel a partisan issue, and what will likely be a U.S. abstention or perhaps even a vote in favor of a biased UN resolution. That resolution will be written to abrogate U.S. signed treaties like the Road Map and Oslo which call for direct negotiations between Israel and PLO and substitute a UN diktat, gifting the Palestinian Authority everything it wants without negotiating anything, at least on paper. And yes, Barack Hussein Obama was always going to do that eventually too, when the opportunity arose, in this case after the 2016 elections. He is simply not to be trusted in any regard where Israel is concerned and neither is the current Democrat nominee, Mrs. Clinton. To be sure, such a UN resolution would never be accepted by the Israelis, but it would provide additional strain on the U.S.-Israel relationship, something President Barack Hussein Obama has had as a policy goal since he took office.
Netanyahu accepted this for a couple of reasons, both political rather than strategic. He didn't want to face political pressure at home for 'ruining the relationship with America' (the Israeli press has its strident leftists, just like America) and he was likely hoping to throw a bone to Obama in hopes he could mollify him during his last few months in office. So at best, this new agreement was a calculated risk, but we'll see.
So that disposed of, let's look at the deal itself. It allocates $3.8 billion a year in military aid to Israel for a period of ten years, up from $3.1 billion per year. That's an increase of $700 million dollars per year, but it's not the increase it would seem to be. For one thing, arms costs have risen by between 20-25% since the last U.S./Israel arms agreement was signed. Subtract that percentage from the new the new amount, and you'll see it amounts to hardly any increase at all, and will likely even be a substantial decrease in ten years. This is especially relevant because this agreement forbids Israel from asking for more, no matter what. It also takes congress out of the equation, where Israel's real friends live and puts this in the hands of the White House.
This amount also includes funds for Israel's missile defense. which Congress funded separately as an additional appropriation of approximately $500 million on an annual basis. So this actually amounts to another cut in this supposed 'increase' in aid. This is especially bad in view of the fact that Congress had already decided to appropriate $3.4 billion of regular foreign aid, plus an additional $600 million for missile defense in 2017, or $4 billion in total. Obama, of course would never have signed off on that but at least it should have been a starting point, especially since Obama and Secretary of state John Kerry promised Israel 'unprecedented aid' after shoving through the Iran deal.
This ain't that, not by a long shot.
The only provision for any increase at all would be if Israel is involved in a war. That decision on whether Israel is at war would be dependent on President Obama or perhaps (G-d forbid) a President Clinton, herself no fan of Israel. Remember than President Obama was the only U.S, president since Israel became a U.S. ally to actually cut off arms shipments to Israel during a shooting war. This part of the deal actually legitimizes that kind of action.
Then there are the various other restrictions. Right now, Israel is allowed to spend 25% of the aid it receives in Israel with Israeli defense companies, while 75% must be spent in the U.S. That restriction, by the way, is unique to Israel. Here's just one example. Egypt receives $1.5 billion in military aid from the U.S. every year. They can spend it however and wherever they choose. After the breach between Obama and the al-Sissi government over Obama's pique over the removal of the president's Muslim Brotherhood favorite Mohammed Morsi from power, Egypt got its $1.5 billion after some song and dance. But the arms they bought with it were Russian.
The new deal mandates that 100% of U.S. aid to Israel be spent in the U.S. in the final five years of the proposed deal. Ironically, the 25% Israel now spends with Israeli defense companies like Rafael actually benefits the U.S. because it usually ends up being used for R&D, something that has produced a number of products that benefits our military like the unique light weight super strong helmet that has become standard issue for our troops.
There's another even more insidious problem with this. What if a future U.S. president for whatever reason decides not to sell arms to Israel any more? The most crucial need in a modern military to keep it up and running, especially in wartime is spare parts - airplane tires, nuts and bolts, engine parts, tank treads, electronics, repair kits, things like that. In 1967, France's Charles DeGaulle, who had been Israel's chief arms supplier decided to curry favor with the Arab world by suddenly cutting off all arms shipments to Israel on the eve of the Six-Day-War, even shipments Israel had already paid for. One of the miracles of the Six -Day-War is that it only took six days...had it lasted much longer, Israel would have had crucial problems finding spare parts. This new deal has that same risk built into it.
As I've pointed out before, the U.S. - Israel alliance is heavily weighted in America's favor, one of the only agreements of this type that is. Israel actually provides goods, services and other considerations worth far more than the aid money it receives.
Rather than accept what Obama offered, perhaps Israel should have held out not for more money but for the ability to spend what it gets where it wants just like a lot of other countries do. Foreign aid totals about 1% of the U.S budget. The aid Israel will get under this new deal is less than 20% of it's overall defense budget and while that's not insignificant, it isn't overwhelming either.
Israel might be far better off not receiving these funds and charging the U.S. the going rate for those services it provides like other countries do. The going price for hosting America's Middle East Strategic arms depot per year alone would provide Israel with as much or possibly more money than this aid package does based on what similar bases cost us. They could then invest that in Israeli companies to enable Israel to become self sufficient in building their own weaponry without the necessity of depending on a foreign country for spare parts or shipments of armaments at crucial times. A few years ago, this wouldn't have been a problem but post-Obama and with the creation of Israel as a partisan issue for the Democrats, it is now.
If Israel is going to accept the funds, it should spend as much as possible on machinery and technology for its domestic arms companies that will eventually enable this kind of self-sufficiency.
Seeing how the first truly anti-Israel president in history has behaved, Israel needs to learn the lesson that a client state status has its risks. Things change. While there's an excellent chance the relationship between Israel and America would be vastly improved with Donald Trump and Mike Pence in office, it's far better to take precautions and opt for self sufficiency and independence, just in case.