(photo credit: )
Aid to Israel has long been the locomotive that pulls foreign aid through
Congress. For just as long, some lawmakers have been saying they’d vote for aid
to Israel only if it were separated from the rest of the world.
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latest to embrace that idea is Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, number two in the
House Republican leadership. Last week he told the Jewish Telegraphic
Agency that if the GOP wins control of the House, he will try to “protect”
Israel’s $3 billion aid package by removing it from the foreign operations
appropriations bill. But is that in the national interest?
decades I’ve been around Capitol Hill, I’ve heard Republicans and Democrats
alike use the same excuse for voting against foreign aid: I’d love to vote for
aid to Israel but I can’t support everything else in the bill.
sincere, but for many it’s a transparent excuse to vote against all
assistance while trying not to offend Israel’s supporters.
is really a cynical election ploy; no president – Republican or Democrat – would
allow it to happen, nor would large numbers of lawmakers in both
Cantor has spoken of moving Israel’s $3 billion security
assistance package to the Pentagon budget.
Another proposal is to put it
in a stand-alone bill.
Friends of Israel have long been the only
consistent backers of foreign aid, in part because of the fear that
across-the-board cuts – even if they exempted Israel – would eventually make it
easier to cut all aid, including Israel’s.
I’ve heard lawmakers from both
parties say, “I held my nose and voted for the bill because I would not hurt
Others support Israel’s aid because it’s the only way to get
their own pet foreign-aid priorities through Congress.
is bad for Israel for several reasons. It would foster resentment and
animosity not only toward Israel but also the American Jewish community, which
would be seen as the driving force behind the move, particularly because it’s
advanced by the only Jewish Republican in Congress.
Putting the account
in the defense budget would leave the Pentagon in charge of Middle East policy –
not an appealing idea in light of the job it’s done running two wars.
would also undermine US relations with other countries considered important to
our national security. At home, it would generate strong resentment
within the Congressional Black Caucus, which has complained for years – not
without reason – that starving Africa gets shortchanged in the aid budget every
year, while prosperous Israel gets the biggest single chunk.
door is opened, other countries will inevitably insist on special treatment.
Egypt will be first in line, demanding parity with Israel. American taxpayers
send Egypt billions every year to assure its adherence to its peace treaty with
Israel, and Cairo expects the same favorable terms Jerusalem gets.
will be a political and diplomatic nightmare.
One possibility I doubt
Cantor considered, and the most troubling for Israel, is that his proposal risks
sparking a debate over whether Israel actually needs that $3 billion every year,
especially when its economy is performing better than ours.
just graduated from “developing” to “developed” nation by its unanimous
acceptance into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Will
deficit hawks and Tea Party followers in Cantor’s own party insist that Israel
be graduated” from the US foreign aid program as well? The OECD praised Israel’s
economic reforms and its scientific/technological leadership. Wikipedia called
Israel “one of the most advanced countries in Southwest Asia in economic and
The independent Swiss Institute for Management
Development ranks its economy as first in the world for resilience to economic
cycles, and first for its R&D spending as a percentage of GDP.
billion dollars and growing – the amount the Obama administration has pledged
over the next decade – buys a lot of hardware for the IDF, but it also comes
with obligations that limit freedom of action.
Israelis have long debated
whether US aid hampers their government’s ability to take actions Washington
dislikes. Leverage is the flip side of any aid package.
By shifting US
aid to the defense budget, Israel would be viewed as another military client
rather than as a diplomatic, cultural and political partner.
This is a
dangerous and irresponsible proposal, bad for Israel and bad for the United
States. Like so many, it is being driven by partisan politics, not by US policy
objectives or the needs of the Jewish email@example.com
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