For or against US aid?

The question that surfaces is whether taking aid is really the best way to leverage the US alliance to overcome the burgeoning Iranian Islamic revolution that has set the Middle East ablaze.

September 14, 2016 21:26
3 minute read.

An iron dome launches rockets to intercept incoming rockets from Gaza on Tuesday.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

In Israel today, there are two schools when it comes to the question of US aid: either you’re for it or against it. Reflecting a pragmatic mindset, the more popular of the camps takes a “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” approach, believing that especially at such a critical time for US-Israeli relations, Israel ought to take the money and be thankful that after years of discord between both heads of government we are still on good terms.

The opposing opinion looks at US influence on Israel policies over the years and understands (correctly) that billions of dollars in aid comes with strings. For this group Israel must be able to act independently, especially in the face of US regional retrenchment, but also taking into consideration the seeming inappropriate nature of receiving a bilateral handout after enjoying almost miraculous economic growth over the past two decades.

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But with a 3,000-plus-day Iranian nuke clock ticking away, the looming decision on the 10-year US aid package requires a more considered and nuanced approach than either side allows. Instead of haggling over the exact size of the package, it is time to reevaluate the premise of this agreement, because even between a rock and hard place there is a space discover another choice, a potential different path forward for the US-Israel alliance.

The question that surfaces is whether taking aid is really the best way to leverage the US alliance to overcome the burgeoning Iranian Islamic revolution that has set the Middle East ablaze.

Over the past two decades, the Israel-American military relationship has been reshaped by industrial- scale cooperation. From missile defense (with the US-funded, Israel-developed Arrow) and Nautilus systems, to the F-35 fighter (for which Israel provides crucial wing components) as well as electronic warfare sensors and communications gear, Israel currently sells billions of dollars of military technology and hardware with significant strategic implications to the US each year.

Looking down the road at some of the major threats emerging, the next 10-year aid agreement should comprehensively define which military platforms are to be built together, including aspects like loan guarantees, funding expectations, terms of export licensing, profit sharing, tech transfers and a chamber of industry that can stimulate, monitor and assist private industrial cooperation on these agreed-upon projects.

Boosting the security of both the US and Israel, such an agreement could also have profoundly positive political implications, helping the two allies move past the turbulent Obama-Netanyahu relationship. By building an agreement based on mutual value, an agreement of this sort can serve as a foundation capable of keeping the relationship between Israel and American intact and healthy in the face of political vicissitudes and acrimonious politicians.

The cultural and historical bonds between these two peoples is the backbone for our elected representatives today to translate into a formidable cooperation. In the past taking aid from America was appropriate as it was beneficial; today, as this alliance moves into a new century, it’s not that the money is bad, it’s just passé.

The rocky eight-year patch between prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama should highlight for everyone the need for Israel to move beyond a paycheck pact into an industrial cooperation. Looking beyond the pundits and vested parties, diversifying an alliance by promoting joint construction of strategic military platforms is that third way that can move both states past onerous presidents and pliant prime ministers, so that the alliance becomes less susceptible to clashing personalities and more about the nations these leaders are supposed to represent.

Today American and Israeli leaders need to recognize that the two countries need each other more than ever, and, more than ever, are united by shared values and commitments. Doing this means that Israel needs to understand that the real value of the aid agreement is measured not in cash but in a less easily quantified – but far more important – measure of strategic alignment.

The writer is the Co-founder of Jewish National Initiative, a grassroots advocacy forum that is bringing Zionism into the 21st century.

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