The US is doling out military aid to Israel because of a multidimensional relationship, turmoil in the Middle East and domestic support for a country perceived as an indispensable ally.
On September 14, the United States decided to shower munificence on an inconvenient ally that delights in defying it. Many are confused. After all, recent relations between the US and Israel have not exactly been smooth sailing. In 2015, Israel approved settlements in East Jerusalem a day before US Secretary of State John Kerry was due to visit. Kerry was swinging by to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and Israeli action ensured that these talks were dead in the water long before the lanky American stepped on the Holy Land.
Of late, this has been part of a pattern. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin “Bibi” Netanyahu has thrown tantrums and consistently snubbed US President Barack Obama for the last eight years. In March this year, he canceled a trip to Washington, DC and the White House only found out about it through the press. Needless to say, Obama could not have been too pleased.
It is an open secret that the Obama-Bibi relationship has long gone wrong. In a telling article in The Times of Israel, Ron Kampeas detailed the “deterioration of trust” between the two leaders. Yet the Obama administration has decided to let bygones be bygones. The US is giving “the only democracy in the Middle East” $38 billion over ten years in a historic military-aid deal.
US aid to Israel has become a hallowed tradition. As per a June 2015 Congressional Research Service report, “Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of US foreign assistance since World War II.” In this report titled “US Foreign Aid to Israel,” Jeremy M. Sharp went on to point out that the US had “provided Israel $124.3 billion (current, or non-inflation-adjusted, dollars) in bilateral assistance.” Obviously, the inflation adjusted dollar amount would be higher.
Obama has topped the $30 billion military aid package that George W. Bush doled out to Israel in 2007 despite having no love lost for Bibi. So, what is going on? Is this the price Obama has to cough up for his nuclear deal with Iran to ward off Republican attacks and assuage Israeli concerns? Or is it a grudging acceptance of an indispensable American-Israeli alliance in a “fraught neighborhood” where radical Islam, sectarian strife and Russian intervention now loom large?
So, Why Has the US Opened Its Wallet?
There are three key reasons why an Obama-led US has doled out cash to a Bibi-led Israel.
First, Israel is the most loyal ally in a volatile region with which the US has deep military, political, economic, technological and cultural relationships.
Second, Israel matters all the more in the light of the strife in Lebanon, the rise of Islamists in Egypt, the brutal ethnic conflict in Syria and Iraq, and the entry of both Russia and Turkey into the picture. Of course, the continuing suspicion of Iran and the increasing unease over Saudi Arabia mean that the US has no choice but to bolster Israel, a modern-day Sparta, just in case there is Armageddon.
Third, Obama has powerful domestic forces pushing him to give aid to Israel. Donald Trump has accused Obama of the most “anti-Israel” president in American history. Trump spiced up the allegation by adding that Obama has “abused” Israel. Such comments can harm Democrats in the November elections even though most Jewish Americans tend to vote for them. Even though the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is no longer as powerful as it once was, it still packs a punch.
Over the years, many Jewish and non-Jewish Americans have embraced the idea that Israel is the only true American ally in a troubled region. For them, the safety of the US is directly linked to the security of Israel. They see their tiny ally as decent, dynamic and democratic. So, can a supposedly foreign-born, socialist and Muslim president oppose Israeli interests for pesky Palestinians and crafty Iranians? And can he afford to let Republicans and Bibi trumpet the virtues of Trump?
In summary, as Emma Green of The Atlantic aptly states, the US simply “has pragmatic reasons to keep providing large sums of money for Israel’s military.”
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
Photo Credit: Kagenmi