Wednesday April 16, 2014
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Dr. Gabi Avital

US aid with no strings attached?

Israel's sages once said: "There are those who earn their world to come in a single hour." Today one might argue that a nation also may earn its world to come in a single hour. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's steadfast position on the Iranian nuclear issue should be that hour.

The history of U.S.-Israeli relations, especially within the context of nuclear affairs, begs the question: Why is Israel standing alone in the struggle against Iranian nuclearization? Why do we have to look to the Talmudic sages to justify Israel's current, "weird" situation?

To answer this question, let's go back to Israel's first decade. During that time, for a little less than 10 years, the U.S. was giving Israel an average annual loan of $700,000. That is not a mistake; the U.S. was basically imposing an arms embargo on the fledgling state.

Why is any of this relevant? Well, just ask any public official or your average citizen to identify the U.S.'s main contribution to Israel. They'll probably say: Lots of money and weapons. Just how much does that aid amount to in terms of gross domestic product? The answer to that question hovers somewhere in the double-digit percentile.

When Israel's might increased after the 1956 Sinai War, the U.S. suddenly woke up, offering Israel loans up to 50 times greater than during the previous period. Why? Interests -- the popular yet profound answer.

After Israel's impressive victory in the 1967 Six-Day War, the U.S., awestruck yet again, began offering loans up to 11 times higher than before the war. Again, U.S. interests are integral for understanding why.

Following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, most experts claimed Israel had suffered a military failure. But the picture of the Middle East was becoming clear, with Israel emerging as the regional superpower. Then, the money really started flowing from the U.S., which continued to offer the funds as a kind of "grant." The U.S. not only considered Israel a regional superpower, but it also saw the Jewish state as a strategic asset, and stabilizing that asset was going to cost Washington a lot of money.

The fundamental error of accepting U.S. "aid" is not just in accepting the terminology. The true mistake is blindly accepting what comes with that assistance. The U.S. exploited the naivete and foolishness of Israel's early leaders. No one ever bothered to explain, for convenience' sake, that the U.S. decides how much of its state budget to allocate to foreign aid based on supremely important U.S. interests.

The U.S., and especially Washington's secretaries of state, have used "aid" among its sundry threats against Israel over the decades for exactly that reason. Then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, for example, pressured Israel to give up the Golan Heights, arguing that Israel didn't have the right to rebuff U.S. directives while enjoying U.S. taxpayer dollars. Additionally, she said Israel could not purchase the European airbus at the U.S.'s -- i.e., Boeing's -- expense.

Dr. Gabi Avital is the chairman of Professors for a Strong Israel.

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