American relationship with Israel under scrutiny

The United States and Israel have always enjoyed an intimate relationship. Israel was a key ally during the Cold War and the security of Israel is one of Washington’s primary concerns. As a result, the US provides Israel with a lot of finances in the form of aid.

Since World War II Israel has received $121 billion in foreign aid. With the approval of the U.S. Congress, Israel currently gets $3 billion annually from America, most of which goes primarily towards its military. An agreement was reached in 2007 for a military package worth up to $30 billion to be delivered to Israel for 10 years, and military aid requests for 2015 would encompass more than half of all U.S. Foreign Military Financing. Current grants are approximated to make up around 25% of the current Israeli defence budget ”which has helped transform the Israeli military into one of the most technologically sophisticated” in the region, maintaining a qualitative edge over other regional militaries. The U.S. Senate also passed the United States-Israel strategic partnership Act, which among other things, calls for increased Israeli access to the War Reserves Stock Allies-Israel programme (WRSA-I) during times of emergency.

Nations providing military aid to their allies is nothing new. However, Israel has faced strong criticism recently due to its disproportionate military operation in Gaza in July-August 2014. Following this operation, Israel has been described by Amnesty international as ‘trigger happy’. Furthermore, Israel’s shelling on a UN school used as a shelter by civilians, was described by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as a ‘criminal act’ and a ‘moral outrage’. In addition, the siege placed on Gaza has been described by Henry Siegman, President of the U.S./Middle East Project and a former Executive Director of the American Jewish Congress, ”as a way no people should be made to live”.

Suggestions have been made that Israel managed to escape genuine accountability for its actions because it has been shielded by the United States, which blocked numerous resolutions through its veto power in the United Nations Security Council and provided generous diplomatic, economic and military support. Given the fact that the U.S. continues to position itself as a champion of human rights and international law, it may need to reconsider its relationship with Israel in light of the recent Gaza conflict. Failure to do so could lead to the U.S. being branded as a hypocrite, a term that is becoming used with more frequency to describe the American foreign policy.

Furthermore, with a whole set of domestic issues that are damaging the U.S. internally, such as increasing homelessness, bankruptcy of major cities such as Detroit, and surging national debt, spending huge sums of money on Israel, a middle income economy with a GDP of around $250 billion dollars/year, is becoming a frivolous and costly pursuit.

In an address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress in 1996, Benjamin Netanyahu said: “I believe that we can now say that Israel has matured enough to begin approaching a state of self-reliance”. However 18 years later Israel is still heavily dependent on the U.S. With criticism of Israel increasing dramatically, the United States will find itself in an uncomfortable position of having to defend its Middle Eastern ally against claims of war crimes. This will likely further diminish the credibility of the U.S. as an impartial promoter of human rights and international law. Former British International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said recently that an arms embargo should be imposed on Israel. While America will never go that far, it may have to re-examine its “special relationship” with Israel.

By Faisal Ali

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Middle East, North America

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