By TruthSeeker

As the United States and Iran confront each other and grow steadily towards a potential military incident, it is worth asking the question: Why? The answer seems pretty obvious: Israel. True, if Iran becomes a nuclear military power many other nations in the Persian Gulf region, and in the world, may have something to fear, even dread. However, it is hard to believe that the US would be going to such extreme military and diplomatic lengths to confront Iran for anyone’s sake but Israel. This emerging situation demonstrates how completely the US supports and serves the interests of Israel. And so, it is also worth asking the question:

Is the US’s complete support for Israel in the best interest of the US?

The short answer is: No, it can’t possibly be. The US maintains the largest and most complex set of allied relationships of any nation on the planet. Its relationship with Israel is, however, unique in both the quantity and quality of support. Since the June, 1967 Middle Eastern War, there have been very few instances, none actually come to mind, where the US has put the interest of itself, or of any other ally, ahead of that of Israel. The costs to the US in terms of money and financial risk, diplomatic capital, and American resources, casualties and deaths spent in the US War-on-Terror have been extraordinary. The benefits accruing to the US in return are miniscule.

US financial aid to Israel

US monetary aid to Israel has been ongoing since 1949. This aid has been in the form of direct grants for military purchases and civilian uses, loans and loan guarantees, and direct transfer of emergency military supplies. Outstanding loan balances have been routinely forgiven to the point that Israel may never have been required to pay back a US loan [3]. US loan guarantees have had the effect of allowing the Israeli government to borrow at subsidized rates by shifting the financial risk to the United States government. Through 2011, the United States has given Israel approximately $112B (not inflation adjusted) [1], and an additional $14.3B in military debt reduction, economic recovery, housing and Soviet Jew resettlement loan guarantees [1]. Currently the US is granting Israel approximately $3B per year in various forms of assistance [1]. The US has had to borrow funds to make these payments to Israel, so that the true cost to US taxpayers is considerably higher [2]. During the past decade, Jewish Americans have been transferring approximately $1.2B per year to Israel through US tax exempt charities [3], another form of subsidy by all US taxpayers. Considering all of these factors, in today’s dollars, the cumulative US monetary support for Israel has been in excess of $200B.

These extraordinary sums of aid have been provided to a nation of approximately 7.7 million (today) [4]. Each year the US is transferring more than $4B of aid to a nation who’s per capita GDP was $30,000 (2010) and ranked 26th in the world [5]. No other recipient of substantial US aid ranks above 100 in GDP per capita. Pakistan, a nation of 178 million people whose GDP per capita ranked 136th (2010) [6], has received approximately $32B (not inflation adjusted) in US grant aid since 1948 , $20B of which has been granted since 2002 [7]. Long-time US ally Jordan has approximately the same population (6.2 million) as its neighbor Israel. Jordon, whose GDP per capita ranked 108th (2010) [8], has received approximately $12B (not inflation adjusted) in US grant aid since 1951 [9].

US diplomatic aid to Israel

No other ally of the US has needed, nor received, as much diplomatic support as has Israel. Every other international relationship that the US has involves a calculus about Israel. The US always considers: Does this other nation or international organization also support Israel? If not, or if not sufficiently, then the US expends a significant amount of its diplomatic clout and energy trading its own interests away in order to buy support for, or diminished opposition to, Israel. The US frequently allows Israeli interests to distort its other foreign relationships.

The US-Russia-Iran relationship is a good example. The US is trying to constrain Iran from developing nuclear weapons, an existential interest of Israel’s. In order to try to secure more cooperation from Russia to constrain Iran’s nuclear projects, the US gave up its planned anti-ballistic missile installations in Poland. Here the US put the interests of Israel above its NATO and East European allies and made a desperate and ineffective bargain with Russia.

The US-Egypt relationship is another example of an Israeli distortion. In 1978-9, the US, purchased peace for Israel from its neighbor Egypt, via the Camp David Accords. As a quid pro quo for signing a peace treaty with Israel, the US entered into a side agreement with Egypt that promised substantial military and civilian financial aid, which continues to this day. Since 1979, the US has granted approximately $64B (not inflation adjusted) to Egypt for military and civilian aid combined, making Egypt the second largest recipient (behind Israel) of US grant aid [9]. One could fairly add most of this total to the category of US financial aid to Israel, since, in truth, the only justification of such largess is that Egypt kept quiet the Israeli “western front”. Here, in this relationship with Egypt, the US not only gave up some of its capacity to financially help other deserving allies in the region, it also gave up its ability to hasten democratic reform in Egypt, a key US interest.

The US relationship with every other friendly government in the Middle East is affected by the US promise to maintain Israel’s “qualitative military edge” over neighboring militaries. This extraordinary promise is defined in the US Naval Vessel Transfer Act of 2008 as ensuring Israel’s ability “to counter and defeat any credible conventional military threat from any individual state or possible coalition of states or from non-state actors, while sustaining minimal damage and casualties, through use of superior military means …” [1] Because of this promise, the US must carefully calibrate the type and quantity of military systems it provides to all other friends in the region. This is why the US will only supply less than state-of-the art military equipment to an ally such as Saudi Arabia [1]. It is not lost on our allies in the Middle East that their interests must be subordinated to those of Israel.

US diplomacy in the United Nations is constantly affected by US accommodation to Israeli interests. Countless UN Security Council resolutions are haggled over, vetoes threatened, favors traded over unrelated issues, all in a US effort to have resolutions that are acceptable to Israel. As far as the UNSC goes, it is almost as if Israel has a permanent seat since the US never votes against the Israeli interest and pushes as hard as it can to advance Israeli interests. The US expends so much UN diplomatic capital on protecting Israel that it often must accept compromises on non-Israel related issues and diminished influence in several UN organizations.

The above are just a few of the distortions of US diplomacy that are caused by the US total support of Israel. In addition to the direct financial and diplomatic aid provided by the US there is also the incredible cost to the US of its War on Terror, undertaken in large part because of its relationship with Israel.

US War-on-Terror supports Israel

The reasons for the US War-on-Terror (WoT) are complex and not solely related to Israel. It is hard to calculate how much this war has cost the US and other nations in terms of lives, mangled people, lost dreams and economic ruin. After stripping away specious arguments that the WoT is for oil, or for US world domination, or to defeat Islam, or to save the American way of life, one is left with, on the one side, Muslim rage against the West for its colonial and post-colonial interference in the affairs of Muslim nations, and, on the other side, US self-defense. The State of Israel represents the modern epitome of such interference. Jewish colonists from all over the world have been brought to Israel, displacing millions of the indigenous non-Jewish inhabitants and making second class citizens of those who have remained. This is especially true of the areas of the West Bank and Jerusalem where the behaviors of a colonizing power, Israel, are stark. For example, in the portions of East Jerusalem claimed permanently by Israel, only 5% of the Arab population has been granted Israeli citizenship while 93% are considered as non-citizen permanent residents [5].

Until there is a settlement of Palestinian grievances that is accepted as just by a large majority of Muslims, Israel and its enabling supporter, the US, will be hated and opposed wherever and whenever possible. And, the defensive US War-on-Terror will necessarily go on, with its tremendous cost in lives and treasure. And yet, in spite of the tremendous cost to the US of its WoT, the US still does not “impose” a just solution on Israel and the Palestinians.

Israeli support for the US

So, given the extraordinary support of the US for Israel, there must be a substantial benefit for US interests. Right? Nations only act in their own self-interests. Right? The fact is, the benefits flowing the other way in the US-Israel relationship are miniscule. If one uses Google to search for topics such as “Israel support for the US” one receives hundreds of hits describing the myriad ways that the US supports Israel, and only a handful that argue the case that Israel helps the US [10].

Supporters of the US-Israeli relationship offer largely circular arguments for the benefits to the US. That is, Israel provides this or that which “helps” the US to protect Israel. For example, most recently, the Israeli anti-ballistic missile systems Iron Dome and Arrow are offered as technological advances that will benefit the US. Putting aside that the US is expected to largely fund Iron Dome and Arrow, these systems are most useful in the Middle East to protect Israel, and other US allies that are under pressure because they host US military resources that the US wants to place there primarily to protect Israel.

Or, it is argued that Israel is a safe port for US troops, the largest potential US “aircraft carrier” in the Middle East, a safe place to store pre-positioned military ordinance, equipment and other supplies to help the US respond quickly to a regional crisis. However, the US has no bases in Israel. Israel did not serve as a staging point for either Gulf War. US aircraft do not fly out of Israeli airbases to support US military operations in the region. The only use of the pre-positioned military supplies, and the real reason for their existence, has been to quickly re-supply Israel when it has had confrontations with Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza [1].

It is asserted that Israel helps the US by serving as a “weapons” tester for US military systems, offering suggestions and actual hardware improvements. Israeli lessons learned in battle with Hezbollah and fighting terrorists are valuable for US WoT operations. If this is so, such Israeli contributions have not made any noticeable impact on the US ability to pacify either Iraq or Afghanistan.

And, it is said that, during the Cold War, Israel provided valuable intelligence on Soviet weapons systems, and today, supplies crucial intelligence for the US WoT. The Soviet weapons systems that fell into Israeli hands were hardly the advanced Soviet strategic weapons of most concern to the US. And, again, Israel’s intelligence on terrorists is mostly about terrorists wanting to strike Israel. Israel’s touted intelligence sharing has not allowed the US to contain Iranian Revolutionary Guard technology from killing thousands of US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Finally, non-tangible arguments are advanced: “Israel is America’s only true friend in the Middle East”; “The only democracy”; “We share common values and common enemies.” While these intangibles may be true and important, so what?

Why does the US totally support Israel?

Weighed against the huge costs to the US, the Israeli contributions to the relationship are inconsequential. So why does the US accept such an unbalanced relationship? The primary reason is that there is no effective American political constituency that opposes the overwhelming US support for Israel. Politically active elites, both elected officials and myriad other opinion leaders in journalism, academia and mass communications, formulate what is “politically correct” for the US to do in foreign affairs.

The American political class, on both the left and right, believes that it is the moral duty of the US to protect Israel, and has convinced the overwhelming majority of ordinary Americans to believe the same. The fact that the US uses an all-volunteer military has insulated most Americans from the human costs of US support for Israel.

This moral imperative to stand by Israel is constantly reinforced by the American political elites and by Jewish Americans who behave as a “one-issue” interest group on the subject of Israel. While only 2% of the US population, American Jews have the highest voting rate of any ethnic group at 84%. 94% of the American Jewish population lives in thirteen key states whose electoral vote total is sufficient to elect an American president [11]. 13% of US Senators are of Jewish descent and 6% of the House of Representatives are [12]. Thus, the political power of Jewish Americans, focused on protecting the interests of Israel, is sufficient to maintain the status quo of the US-Israeli relationship.

The only way the US-Israeli relationship will change is if Palestinians develop a countervailing moral narrative of their suffering, and case for justice, which can break through to the US public. A non-violent Palestinian civil rights movement in Israel proper, Gaza and the West Bank, supported by the Muslim world, might succeed. Terrorism against Americans will never convince them that Israel is the problem.

TruthSeeker is a 66-year old American with a 40-year interest in US policies in the Middle East.

[2] The Cost of Israel to US Taxpayers
[4] Israel – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
[10] Foreign Aid, Part II: Israel as a Security Asset | JINSA Online
[11] American Jews – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
[12] Jewish Members of the 112th Congress

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