Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Questioning U.S. aid to Israel

Socialist Worker, March 19, 2009

WHILE THE Obama stimulus program has generated much disagreement over what new economic policies need to be implemented and how they should be funded, there is one policy in which both capitalist parties speak with unanimity: the American “special relationship” with Israel.

According to a recent book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, our “special relationship” with Israel costs American taxpayers over $3 billion a year in the form of direct foreign aid. This sounds generous, but there’s even more. Unlike other foreign country entitlement programs, which the U.S. pays in quarterly installments, Israel has a special deal: It gets its entire annual appropriation (a direct cash transfer) in the first 30 days of the fiscal year.

Unfortunately for U.S. taxpayers, their government must borrow the money in order to pay Israel up front, costing millions of dollars in additional yearly interest. And, as if this weren’t enough, Israel reinvests its unspent balance in U.S. treasury bills from which it collects millions of extra dollars in additional interest. (Guess who’s paying?)

Due to lax oversight arrangements, detecting cases of misappropriation after aid reaches Israel is difficult. As an example, the authors cite a huge embezzlement scheme operated by an Israeli brigadier general who succeeded in illegally diverting millions of U.S. aid dollars.

In addition to direct U.S. government cash grants and loan guarantees, Israel receives an estimated $2 billion each year in private donations from wealthy American citizens; the authors indicate these are tax deductible due to a special clause in the U.S.-Israeli tax treaty. Isn’t this the kind of tax break most Americans could live without?

Mearsheimer and Walt also show that America’s continuing support for Israel’s prolonged occupation of Palestinian lands has fueled Islamic anti-Americanism and its concomitant terrorist problem. While endorsing the argument for Israel’s existence, they question the moral rationale for supporting the unspeakable brutality inflicted on Palestinians trying to survive under occupation by a state that doesn’t even have a permanent border.

Due to American largesse, the world economic depression hasn’t reached our “special” friends in Zion yet, but it’s being felt here. And, boy-o-boy does it hurt! Since, as Obama has said, “everything is on the table,” perhaps it’s time to ask him why jobless Americans with foreclosed mortgages, no health care and little prospect of a dignified retirement are being expected to subsidize one of the world’s weathier countries, which has no strategic importance and has succeeded in turning a large part of the Islamic world against the U.S.

If they haven’t already read it, many socialist readers may be interested in the material presented in this well argued, thoroughly researched and fair book.
Trystram Trotz, from the Internet

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