By Prof. Paul Eidelberg
Why hasn’t any Israeli government revealed America’s economic as well as strategic and technological dependence on Israel? Leaving this question for a future article, the following is extracted from my book An American Political Scientist in Israel (Lexington Books, 2010).
Many pundits contend that Israel, or rather its Government’s undeviating policy of land for peace is simply the consequence of U.S. pressure dating back to the Six-Day War of June 1967, when Israel regained possession of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza (as well as the Sinai and the Golan Heights). As may be seen in the Rogers Plan (1967), the Reagan Plan (1982), and the current Saudi-sponsored Road Map, Washington, more so since Barack Obama entered the White House, (desperately) wants Israel to return to her pre-1967 borders. Why?
What is Washington’s primary motive, which is independent of whether Democrats or Republicans control the White House.
As is well known, the American economy depends very much on oil. Saudi Arabia not only sits on 25 percent of the world’s proven reserves, but Saudi oil, barrel per barrel, is the cheapest oil in the world to extract. Less than 24 hours after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Saudis put on the market an extra nine million barrels of oil, going mostly to the United States. (The economic meltdown in the United States makes the availability of this oil all the more important.)
It is also known that Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim kingdom, has supported the Sunni dominated PLO for several years and advocates a Palestinian state. With this fact connected to the U.S. purchase of Saudi oil and to the Saudi purchase of American arms, Riyadh should not find it difficult to persuade Washington that the Israel-Palestinian conflict is “the core of the Middle East problem,” and that the solution of this problem requires the U.S. to induce Israel to return to her pre-1967 borders. Washington, it seems, can the more readily pressure Israel because the U.S. is Israel’s major arms supplier. Saudi oil, it seems, silently lubricates Israel’s undeviating policy of land for peace.
This economic interpretation probably has the most proponents. It’s charmingly simple and superficial, which is probably why it’s so popular. Virtually everyone assumes that Washington exerts irresistible diplomatic pressure on Israeli prime ministers. But surely the efficacy of this pressure on depends on the personal character of these prime ministers: their courage and wisdom, their sense of national pride and awareness of the magnitude of the issue. Some prime ministers stand firm, others crumble. On the other hand, perhaps the yielding to pressure on the part of certain prime ministers should be related to their covert political ambitions …
American military assistance alone does not adequately explain why Israeli prime ministers have clasped the blood-stained hands of Yasser Arafat. Nor does it adequately explain why Israel, a reputed democracy, negotiates with, and expects to obtain genuine and abiding peace from, Arab despots and tyrannies whose 1,400-year culture exalts war (jihad). Besides, how can Israel achieve peace by yielding land from which Arab terrorists and armies can all the more successfully wage war against the Jewish state? Are Israel’s ruling elites fools or cravens? …
Joseph Sisco, a former Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs, once told Israeli author Shmuel Katz, “I want to assure you, Mr. Katz, that if we were not getting full value for our money, you would not get a cent from us.” American foreign policy-makers are pragmatists, not moralists. U.S. aid to Israel is animated by national self-interest—pious platitudes to the contrary notwithstanding. As we shall now see, Israel is, and has been, America’s biggest strategic bargain—and Israel’s ruling elites know this.
For FY2007, U.S. military grants to Israel was $2.34 billion (= $2.34BN), and was scheduled to increase to $3.00BN in FY2008.
Since Israel’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2008 was $195BN, total U.S. aid to Israel was only 1.5% of its GDP!
Viewed over the five year period of 2004-2008—total U.S. military aid was approximately $12BN.
What has the U.S. received from Israel in return?
Total exports from the U.S. to Israel between 2004 and 2008 was $58.6BN—almost five times twice the $12BN Israel received in U.S. aid during this period. The annual average of U.S. exports to Israel during this period was $11.7BN, more than five times the average American aid package!
Israel must spend about 74 percent of U.S. military aid in the United States, where it provides jobs for an estimated 50,000 American workingmen.
? Unknown to many observers, U.S. military aid to Israel creates a demand for, and the purchase of, tens of billions of dollars worth of U.S. weaponry by Saudi Arabia and other Arab states. U.S. grants to Israel—far from imposing a burden on the American tax payer—actually enriches the American economy. (American arms manufacturers know this. So do Senators and Representatives who represent states in which corporations such as Boeing, Lockheed, and General Dynamics are located. These elected officials, along with these corporations, have vested interests in opposing any sanctions against Israel if its government were to take a more independent and vigorous stand against the Palestinian Authority.)
According to Gen. George Keegan, a former chief of U.S. Air Force Intelligence, between 1974 and 1990, Israeli aid to America was worth between $50-80BN in intelligence, research and development savings, Soviet weapons systems captured and transferred to the Pentagon, and testing Soviet military doctrines up to 1990 when the USSR collapsed. Senator Daniel Inouye put it this way: “The contribution made by Israeli intelligence to America is greater than that provided by all NATO countries combined.”
Recall that in 1970, at Washington’s request, Israel prevented a Syrian invasion of Jordan. By protecting Jordan from that client of the Soviet Union, Israel thwarted Moscow’s ambitions in the Middle East. It would be naive to think that Russia has abandoned its historic objectives in this region.)
Now let us paraphrase a report of Yoram Ettinger, former Israeli liaison to the U.S. Congress:
Israel constantly relays to the U.S. lessons of battle and counter-terrorism, which reduce American losses in Iraq and Afghanistan, prevent attacks on U.S. soil, upgrade American weapons, and contribute to the U.S. economy. Innovative Israeli technologies boost U.S. industries.
The vice-president of the company that produces the F16 fighter jets told Ettinger that Israel is responsible for 600 improvements in the plane’s systems, modifications estimated to be worth billions of dollars, which spared dozens of research and development years.
Without Israel, the U.S. would have to deploy tens of thousands of American troops in the eastern Mediterranean Basin, at a cost of billions of dollars a year.
In 1981, Israel bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor, thus providing the U.S. with the option of engaging in conventional wars with Iraq in 1991 and 2003, thereby preventing a possible nuclear war and its horrendous consequences.
In 2005, Israel provided America with the world’s most extensive experience in homeland defense and warfare against suicide bombers and car bombs. American soldiers train in IDF facilities and Israeli-made drones fly above the Sunni Triangle in Iraq, as well as in Afghanistan, providing U.S. Marines with vital intelligence that saved many American lives.
But I have not mentioned Israel’s greatest gift to America’s well-being and prosperity, a gift of incalculable value, exceeding by far all that Israel receives from the U.S. For Israel provides America with 25,000 high tech workers, 324 scientists, 902 doctors who studied medicine in Israel, 1,800 Israeli professors and lecturers, 171 high ranking military officers, and thousands of other professional people whose contribution to the American economy is priceless. Dr. Sisco knew whereof he spoke.
Israel’s ruling elite is deliberately silent about these facts, which would not only heighten Jewish pride and self-confidence, but would also make Israelis contemptuous of the government’s spineless policy of land for peace as well as its frequent subservience to Washington (depending on the character of its prime minister …).
Viewed in this light, the feared loss of $3 billion in U.S. military aid is a bogeyman. In fact, $3 billion is probably less than the sum Israel loses in tax evasion (notorious in this country). Besides, far more than $3 billion was lost as a direct consequence of the policy of land for peace. Suffice to mention the multi-billion dollar price tag on the so-called security fence; the multi-billion dollar cost of withdrawing from Gaza, which required the redeployment of the Israel Defense Forces and financial compensation of the 8,000 Jews whose homes, farms, and factories were destroyed by the Sharon Government. (Nor should we ignore the incalculable cost of devastating the lives of these productive Jews, whose farms and factories contributed $100,000,000 annually to Israel’s economy and who certainly did not obtain peace from the misnamed “peace process.”)