President Obama Says It’s Time To Stop Subsidizing Israeli Defense Industry

*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*

America has what are called “special relationships” with a few nations and although that designation typically applies to the United Kingdom, there is another foreign nation that enjoys a “really special relationship” with America. It is fairly well-known that America doles out a significant amount of taxpayer money to many foreign nations in the form of defense aid, but no country enjoys more taxpayer largesse than Israel.

However, unlike every other country reaping hundreds-of-millions, and indeed billions, of taxpayer dollars for defense, only Israel is allowed to spend the billions it receives every year to subsidize its own defense sector. Any and all other governments receiving American aid for defense has to spend it on American-made weapons, but because of the “special relationship” with America, Israel uses American aid to bolster its own defense industry and President Barack Obama wants that atrocity to come to an abrupt end. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is of a different mindset and doesn’t like the idea of America ending its subsidies that create jobs and economic benefit to Israelis at the expense of American jobs and its economy.

As America and Israel are in the process of completing an agreement to continue giving billions of American tax dollars annually to Israel for defense, the last obstacle to a deal extending to 2029 is what is known as the “offshore procurement” provision. It is a provision President Barack Obama says has to end because it is nothing more than American taxpayers subsidizing Israel’s defense sector. As the agreement has been, and is now, Israel gets to spend a whopping 26% of the American “gifts” at home to enrich its defense industry and create Israeli jobs. Israel is the only nation on Earth America has “that” special arrangement with and  Benjamin Netanyahu demands that it stays in place.

Under President Obama, U.S. military aid to Israel is more than any other president in U.S.  history and still, Republicans scream perpetually that the President “throws Israel under the bus” with every foreign policy decision he makes. Of course what Republicans and Netanyahu really object to is not the President’s generosity to Israel, but his resistance to allowing Israel to set American foreign policy, but that’s another story.

America already gives Israel too much defense money, but the least the ingrates should do is abide by the same conditions as every other military aid recipient and spend those tens-of-billions buying American-made arms. In fact, earlier this month National Security Adviser Susan Rice said, “Even in these days of belt tightening, we are prepared to sign the single largest military assistance package — with any country — in American history.”  And she noted that the gifts to Israel’s economy and jobs “comprises more than 50 percent of the total U.S. military aid budget.”  It is noteworthy that a little over a fourth of that 50 percent creates jobs and economic growth for Israel at the expense of American defense jobs.

The President’s hard line on ending the taxpayer-funded subsidies for a foreign country’s defense industry is a reflection of the concern among no small number of American defense companies and it is a valid concern. They rightly complain that America is unwittingly or not aiding foreign competitors vying for sales in the international arms market. A former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs during the W. Bush administration (2007-2009), Mary Beth Long, said it was long past time to “rethink Israel’s offshore procurement exception.”

Ms. Long believes:

America has a strategic and moral obligation to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge,” what she said is a defense concept that requires America to “sell Israel more advanced defense technology than its regional rivals receive. The information sharing, the tactics, techniques and procedures, the things we have learned from the Israelis particularly as to asymmetric confrontation, and their visibility into the region is absolutely critical to our national security.”

But, she also concluded that the special relationship regarding military aid has gone off the rails in recent years. She continued:

“It doesn’t make sense for Israel to come back and ask for supplemental projects if they can’t make the case of why they didn’t spend their own budget and the normal $3 billion in [American] aid on a critical item. If it’s critical, and therefore we have to subsidize it, then why didn’t you find your own money for this?”

The “this” Long referred to is America’s “special appropriation” for Israel’s Iron Dome rocket and missile defense system. While she was working at the defense department, Ms. Long opposed creation of yet another “independent aid program” for Iron Dome.  But because she was in the minority and didn’t like the idea of American tax dollars completely supporting Israel’s defense, she lost that battle.

America has “gifted” over $1 billion extra since 2010 to increase Israel’s “Iron Dome” defense systems, and that is in addition to the annual billions America gave Israel in military aid. President Obama opposed the extra gifts at the time they were first demanded by Israel and remarked that Israel should find its own money for Iron Dome; especially when America’s economy was still reeling from the 2008 financial crisis.

No matter how much many Americans oppose giving any military aid to other countries whether we have a “special relationship” or not, as long as that money has to be spent “buying American arms,” at least it was beneficial to America’s economy and created American jobs. There are many Americans that believe in supporting Israel as an ally, but they also believe the tens-of-billions of dollars would be better spent on Veterans and currently-enlisted military personnel; many of whom are dependent on food stamps just to feed their families.

Some Americans wouldn’t object at all to giving military aid to Israel, even though it is subsidizing Israeli jobs and industry if the nation would keep its nasty Prime Minister’s nose out of American foreign policy and stop its atrocities against Palestinians. For no small number of Americans, though, it is abominable to hand over billions to Israel while nearly a quarter of American children live in dire poverty, over 1.7 million Veterans depend on vanishing food stamps, and the nation’s infrastructure is crumbling.

President Obama is right in holding up negotiations for even more military aid to Israel until that “special procurement” program is ended because it is one thing to help defend America’s allies, but it is abominable that that “help” is enriching a foreign nation’s defense industry at American taxpayers’ expense. It is time for Israel to support its own defense and for America to stop killing Americans’ jobs because of a “special relationship” that only benefits Israel and subsidizes its defense industry.

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