Arens: Israel does not need US aid

The former foreign minister says Israel can "go on without American aid" before Knesset caucus on US-Israel relations.

Moshe Arens 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Moshe Arens 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The more than $3 billion in annual foreign aid that Israel receives from the United States is not essential for the country’s survival, former foreign minister Moshe Arens said on Tuesday at a meeting launching a Knesset caucus on US-Israel relations.
Arens and former US ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer spoke at the Knesset Caucus on US-Israel Relations inaugural event. The caucus, chaired by Labor MK Nachman Shai, is organized by the Ruderman Family Foundation.
“My finance minster would kill me for saying this, but we could go on without American aid,” Arens said. “We would be unhappy to lose it, but we can survive.”
Arens said the US-Israel relationship is not one-sided, and that Israel’s contribution to the partnership is substantial. He downplayed the importance of Israel’s policies in Judea and Samaria in its relationship with the US.
“When allies have differences of opinion, if one partner thinks an issue is very important, the other side will defer,” Arens said. “The issue of Judea and Samaria is not an issue of vital importance for the US. When there have been differences on it, the US has deferred to Israel.”
Kurtzer – who was ambassador to Israel from 2001 to 2005 and is now a Princeton University professor – presented a completely differrent point of view. He suggested that Israel’s West Bank policies could alienate American administrations and US Jews.
“The US won’t impose a peace settlement and will respect Israel’s sovereign right to make its decisions,” Kurtzer said, while raising the question of whether America should stand in the way when Israel makes decisions the US perceives as incorrect.
Other issues that will impact the relationship, according to Kurtzer, include American budget cuts, the atmosphere in which young American Jews’ views on Israel are formed, Israel’s image on American college campuses, and the US’s image in the world.
“The incorrect perception of a decline in American power has dramatic implications for Israel because the US is its strategic backstop,” Kurtzer said. “If there’s a decline in US power, there’s a perception of a decline in Israeli deterrence.”
The event was attended by Labor MKs Shai, Avishay Braverman, Omer Bar-Lev, and Itzik Shmuli, Yesh Atid MK Dov Lipman, Bayit Yehudi MKs Mordechai Yogev and Shuli Muallem, Shas MK Avraham Michaeli, Meretz MK Michal Roisin, and Yisrael Beytenu MKs Robert Ilatov and Shimon Ohayon.
Ruderman Foundation president Jay Ruderman said at the launching event that the goal of the new caucus was to educate MKs on the US Jewish community and its diversity.
To that end, the foundation will be bringing a delegation of MKs to tour Jewish life in the US, as it has twice before.
The president of the American Zionist Movement, Rabbi Vernon Kurtz, said it was important to build “peope-to-people” relationships via culture, arts, and good news from Israel. He said Israelis should go to the US to better understand the American Jewish community.
“Without understanding the community, it’s hard for them to ask for their support,” Kurtz said.
Brandeis University president Fred Lawrence said Israel could learn from his institution, which has a vibrant and diverse Jewish community.
“We have to be open, mature, and comfortable in our disagreements,” he said.