Sequestration, an across-the-board cut in America’s fiscal budget, kicked in on March
1. Israel is one of the many countries expected to be adversely affected.
US aid to Jordan and Egypt is expected to be cut while the direct impact on Israel, according to the Israeli economic daily Globes, will be a reduction in annual military aid by as much as $729 million from the present level of $3.1 billion, though most estimates are that the cut to Israeli defense aid will be around $175m.
In all, sequestration will cut a total of $85b. from the US domestic and defense budgets. Democrats and Republicans have been at loggerheads for months with President Barack Obama, demanding that any sequester replacement bill include the same amount of deficit reduction achieved through both tax increases and spending cuts, while Republicans oppose any new tax hikes.
Sequestration was originally designed as an incentive to get Congress and the White House to agree on a budget as opposed to an indiscriminate across the board cut.
Whether Israel’s defense aid is reduced as a result of sequestration or as a result of a budget bill that replaces it, we should not shy away from playing our part in helping to reduce the US’s rapidly ballooning debt, which is estimated to make 35 cents of every dollar the US spends.
As Ambassador to the US Michael Oren put it, “We [Israelis] are prepared to bear our share of the burden, while trying to protect critical projects for Israel’s security and integrity, including Iron Dome,” the anti-missile defense system. Additionally, doing an admittedly small part to help cash-strapped Americans who have consistently come to Israel’s aid over the decades – whether in international forums or in military coordination – and accepting a reduction in US military aid would also help Israel gradually build up its self-dependence. Instead of being a drag on America’s resources, we should strive to gradually become self-sufficient.
However, not all pro-Israel, pro-America groups agree. In a piece titled “AIPAC to Hill: Don’t Touch Israel Aid” that appeared in the New York Jewish Week, Douglas Bloomfield, who served for nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, said that AIPAC “will be sending thousands of its citizen lobbyists to Capitol Hill next week to make sure Israel is exempted from any spending cuts.” Brian Schatz, who in December filled the seat left vacant by Democratic Hawaiian Sen. Daniel Inouye, called on his fellow lawmakers to spare Israel the cuts resulting from sequestration. “My colleagues must come together once again and protect funding for critical programs such as this [Iron Dome],” Schatz said during a tribute on the Hill to the strongly pro-Israel Inouye and to Iron Dome, organized by The Friedlander Group and chaired by Robert Rechnitz, a Los Angeles-based real estate developer and philanthropist.
True, the reduction in US aid will amount to a painful squeeze on our defense budget, further exacerbated by the need to reduce defense spending as part of wider cuts to a rapidly expanding budget deficit.
The IDF will have to hunker down to meet its acquisition plans for several military systems, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, new C-130 Hercules transport planes and Namer armored personnel carriers currently under construction in the US.
Nor should the derogatory “Israel firster” term be applied to those lobbying Congress and the White House to exclude aid to Israel from the sequestration cuts.
Still, with American citizens feeling the crunch, it is only fair that Israel bear its share of the burden.
The Jewish state might even come out of the sequestration ordeal stronger and more independent.