Why the Security and Well-Being of the United States Depends Very Much on Israel*
by Prof. Paul Eidelberg
Joseph Sisco, a former Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs, once told Israeli author Shmuel Katz, “I want to assure you, Mr. Katz, that if we were not getting full value for our money, you would not get a cent from us.” In fact, Israel has long been America’s biggest strategic bargain. Let’s examine some facts.
• For FY2009, U.S. military grants to Israel was $2.55 billion (= $2.55B).
• Since Israel’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2009 was $199B, total U.S. aid to Israel was merely 1.28 percent of its GDP—a sum easily obtained by closing tax loop holes.
• Viewed over the five year period of 2005–2009—total U.S. military aid was approximately $12B.
What has the U.S. received from Israel in return?
• Total exports from the U.S. to Israel between 2005 and 2009 amounted to $57.6B—almost five times the $12B Israel received in U.S. aid during this period. The annual average of U.S. exports to Israel during this period was $11.7B, more than five times the average American aid package!
• Israel must spend about 74 percent of U.S. military aid in the United States, where it provides jobs for an estimated fifty thousand American workers.
• Unknown to many observers, U.S. military aid to Israel creates a demand for, and the purchase of, tens of billions of dollars worth of U.S. weaponry by Saudi Arabia and other Arab states. U.S. grants to Israel —far from imposing a burden on the American tax payer—actually enriches the American economy. (American arms manufacturers know this. So do congressmen who represent the various States in which corporations such as Boeing, Lockheed, and General Dynamics are located. These elected officials, along with these corporations, have vested interests in opposing any sanctions against Israel if its government were to take a more independent and vigorous stand against the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.
• According to Gen. George Keegan, a former chief of U.S. Air Force Intelligence, between 1974 and 1990, Israeli aid to America was worth between $50–80B in intelligence, research, development savings, and Soviet weapons systems captured and transferred to the Pentagon, and testing Soviet military doctrines up to 1990 when the USSR collapsed. Senator Daniel Inouye put it this way: “The contribution made by Israeli intelligence to America is greater than that provided by all NATO countries combined.”
• Recall that in 1970, at Washington’s request, Israel prevented a Syrian invasion of Jordan. By protecting Jordan from that client of the Soviet Union, Israel thwarted Moscow’s ambitions in the Middle East. It would be naive to think that Russia has abandoned its historic objectives in this region.
Now let us paraphrase various parts of a report by Israeli Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger apropos of the February 2010 visit to Israel of U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs-of-Staff Admiral Michael Mullen:
• Israel constantly relays to the United States lessons of battle and counter-terrorism, which reduce American losses in Iraq and Afghanistan, prevent attacks on U.S. soil, upgrade American weapons, and contribute to the U.S. economy. Innovative Israeli technologies boost U.S. industries.
• The vice-president of the company that produces the F-16 fighter jets told Ettinger that Israel is responsible for six hundred improvements in the plane’s systems, modifications estimated to be worth billions of dollars, which spared dozens of research and development years.
• Without Israel, the United States would have to deploy tens of thousands of American troops in the eastern Mediterranean Basin, at a cost of billions of dollars a year.
• In 1981, Israel bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor, thus providing the United States with the option of engaging in conventional wars with Iraq in 1991 and 2003, thereby preventing a possible nuclear war and its horrendous consequences.
• In 2005, Israel provided America with the world’s most extensive experience in homeland defense and warfare against suicide bombers and car bombs. American soldiers train in IDF facilities and Israeli-made drones fly above the Sunni Triangle in Iraq , as well as in Afghanistan , providing U.S. Marines with vital intelligence that saved many American lives.
But I have not mentioned Israel’s greatest gift to America’s well-being and prosperity, a gift of incalculable value, exceeding by far all that Israel receives from the United States. For as Ettinger points out, Israel provides America with 25,000 high tech workers, 324 scientists, 902 doctors who studied medicine in Israel, 1,800 Israeli professors and lecturers, 171 high ranking military officers, and thousands of other professional people whose contribution to the American economy is priceless. (Dr. Sisco knew whereof he spoke.)
Viewed in this light, the feared loss of $2.38 billion in U.S. military aid is a bogeyman. In fact, it is probably less than the sum Israel loses in tax evasion. Besides, far more than $2.38 billion was lost as a direct consequence of the policy of land for peace. Suffice to mention the multi-billion dollar price tag on the security fence; the multi-billion dollar cost of withdrawing from Gaza, which required the redeployment of the Israel Defense Forces and financial compensation of the eight thousand Jews whose homes, farms, and factories were destroyed by the Sharon government. (Nor should we ignore the incalculable cost of devastating the lives of these productive Jews, whose farms and factories contributed $100,000,000 annually to Israel’s economy and who certainly did not obtain peace from the misnamed “peace process.”)
In view of these facts, why doesn’t Israel’s ruling elites resist U.S. pressure? In fact, they have done so on many occasions in the past and with salutary results.
Ettinger provides compelling evidence in his article “U.S. Pressure—A Guide for the Perplexed,” September 9, 2009:
• In 1950, the U.S. Administration pressured Israel to refrain from Jewish construction in Jerusalem and from declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel. Prime Minister Ben-Gurion built, relocated government agencies and thousands of immigrants to Jerusalem and declared Jerusalem the capital of the Jewish state.
• In 1961, President Kennedy pressured Ben-Gurion to stop the construction of Israel’s nuclear reactor. Ben-Gurion ignored Kennedy.
• In 1967, the U.S. Administration pressured against annexation of East Jerusalem . Prime Minister Eshkol annexed, reunited Jerusalem, and built the formidable Ramat Eshkol neighborhood.
• In 1967, President Johnson pressured Prime Minister Eshkol against preempting the Egypt-Syria-Jordan military offensive. Eshkol acted independently.
• In 1970, the U.S. Administration pressured Israel to relinquish control over parts of Jerusalem. Prime Minister Golda Meir constructed the neighborhoods of Gilo, Ramot and Neveh Yaakov (current population over 100,000!).
• In 1977, President Jimmy Carter pressured Prime Minister Begin to abstain from direct negotiation with President Sadat and participate—instead—in an international conference, focusing on the Palestinian issue and Jerusalem. Begin acted independently.
• In 1981, President Reagan pressured Prime Minister Begin against bombing Iraq’s nuclear reactor. Begin ordered the bombing operation.
• In 1990, President Bush (the elder) and his Secretary of State James Baker attempted to cut 5 percent of the foreign aid to Israel , on account of Israel ’s settlement activity. Congress opposed and the initiative was rescinded. (The legislature and the executive are equal in power and fully independent of each other. The U.S. Congress has been a systematic bastion of support of the Jewish state since before 1948.)
• Following the 1991 Gulf War, Israel asked for emergency assistance, which Bush/Baker rejected. Congress supported and Israel received $650M in cash and $700M in military systems.
• U.S. public and Congressional support of Israel is robust. “The Rasmussen Report” documents a 70 percent support (August 10, 2009) and “Gallup” ranks Israel as the fourth-favored ally (March 3, 2009). Seventy-one senators signed an August 10, 2009, letter calling upon President Obama to shift pressure from Israel to Arab countries. The Democratic Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, Howard Berman, called upon Obama to end his preoccupation with settlements. The Democratic Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer, resents Obama’s opposition to Jewish construction in East Jerusalem. The strongest (Democratic) senator, Daniel Inouye, Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, is the most effective supporter of the U.S.-Israel connection since 1948.
Ettinger concludes: “Defiance of pressure entails short-term cost but enhances long-term national security. Submission to pressure exacerbates pressure. Fending off pressure is required, in order to attain strategic goals. Avoiding pressure—through concessions—leads to departure from strategic goals.”
The lesson is clear: Courage, fortified by Jewish faith, is the one thing needed in Israel’s Government—for the sake of both Israel and the United States.
* This report is extracted from Chapter 5 of my forthcoming book An American Political Scientist in Iseael. The importance and even urgency of this report is magnified by the Obama Administation’s hostilty toward Israel. Indeed, according to John Bolton, former US ambassador to the United Nations, Obama is actively pursuing a post-American foreign policy, a policy that involves sacrificing Israel on behalf of Islam. Hence, the data should be disseminated as widely as possible.