Barak’s $20 billion mistake

Barak must go now

Bt Evelyn Gordon, Commentary

Yesterday Alana wrote that Israel’s government urgently needs to improve its public relations. That’s just become a lot more urgent, and the first step is obvious: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should fire his defense minister immediately.

In an interview in today’s Wall Street Journal, Ehud Barak announced that Israel might ask Washington for another $20 billion in aid due to the unrest now sweeping the region. As an Israeli, I’m cringing in shame.

The U.S. currently faces a massive deficit that threatens the country’s very future, and Congress is slashing ruthlessly in an effort to curb it. Almost nothing has been spared the ax — with one glaring exception: a sweeping majority of Congress still opposes any cut to the annual $3 billion in American aid to Israel, because at a time when Israel is facing an unprecedented international delegitimization campaign, Congress doesn’t want to do anything that might imply faltering support for America’s longtime ally.

It’s an extraordinarily generous gesture, and as I’ve written elsewhere, the only proper response would be for Netanyahu to do what he did during his first term as prime minister 15 years ago: announce a phased, multi-year cutback in aid at a joint session of Congress. Precisely because it is such a tangible expression of American support, American aid sends an important message to Israel’s enemies; thus, eliminating it altogether might be unwise. But Israel’s economy is certainly strong enough to cope with a cutback, and if it were an Israeli initiative, it wouldn’t imply faltering American support. On the contrary, it would strengthen the relationship by showing that it’s not a one-way street, that Israel is also sensitive to America’s needs.

Instead, as if he were blind, deaf, and dumb to everything that’s happened in America over the past few years, Barak declared that he wants to seek an increase in aid. As if America were nothing but a cash cow, with no urgent monetary needs of its own. This is a public-relations disaster, one guaranteed to alienate even Israel’s strongest supporters in Congress unless Netanyahu makes it immediately and unequivocally clear that his defense minister’s proposal is unacceptable.

But it’s also a strategic disaster. Israel does not have so many allies that it can afford to alienate its best and most reliable friend. And someone so utterly lacking in strategic sense as to be incapable of grasping that the goodwill of Congress and the American public is worth far more than $20 billion in aid has no business being defense minister of any country, much less one as genuinely threatened as Israel.

If the American Jewish community yells loudly enough, Netanyahu will listen. So now it’s time to start yelling. Israel’s friends must push him to engage in damage control before it’s too late.

March 8, 2011 | 14 Comments »

Subscribe to Israpundit Daily Digest

Leave a Reply

14 Comments / 14 Comments

  1. What Would Begin Do?

    The first incident occurred in July 1977, when Zbigniew Brzezinski presented Begin with a draft statement regarding the just-concluded U.S.-Israel meeting. Begin told Brzezinski that the draft was acceptable — “except for two sentences.” Brzezinski asked what they were:

    “Please delete ‘The United States affirms Israel’s inherent right to exist.’”

    “Why so?”

    “Because the United States’ affirmation of Israel’s right to exist is not a favor, nor is it a negotiable concession. I shall not negotiate my existence with anybody, and I need nobody’s affirmation of it.”

    Brzezinski’s expression was one of surprise. “But to the best of my knowledge every Israeli prime minister has asked for such a pledge.”

    “I sincerely appreciate the president’s sentiment,” said Begin, “but our Hebrew Bible made that pledge and established our right over our land millennia ago. Never, throughout the centuries, did we ever abandon or forfeit that right. Therefore, it would be incompatible with my responsibilities as prime minister of Israel were I not to ask you to erase this sentence.” And then, without pause, “Please delete, too, the language regarding the commitment to Israel’s survival.”

    “And in what sense do you find that objectionable?”

    “In the sense that we, the Jewish people alone, are responsible for our country’s survival, no one else.”

    The second incident came a year later, in perhaps the tensest moment of the Camp David negotiations. In his diary entry for September 12, 1978, published last year in White House Diary, Carter wrote that Begin called him during dinner and said he “wanted to see me as soon as possible for the most serious talk we had ever had.” Carter tried to postpone the meeting until the next morning, but Begin insisted.

    When they met, Begin opened by saying it was “the most serious talk in his life except for one with his idol, Jabotinsky.” Begin wanted the words “inadmissibility of acquisition of territory by war,” which appear in the nonbinding preamble to UN Resolution 242 but not in its operative text, removed from the draft Camp David accord. He told Carter he would not sign any text that included them.

    Begin said he had refused for eight days to sign such a document and had finally asked to meet with Carter. “And this is what I told him” — that Israel was in Judea and Samaria as a matter of right, with a claim to sovereignty over the entire area; that it was “the land of our forefathers, which we have never forgotten during exile” but that “we leave the question of sovereignty open, because we want peace …. we know there are other claims.” They would be resolved later but not by a retreat to indefensible borders:

    [T]hey wanted us to give them a commitment a priori … that we shall relinquish, completely, Judea, Samaria and the Gaza district, and not only give up our paternal heritage, our inherent right, the Land of our prophets and of our kings, the Land of our fathers and of our children, but also the most vital demands of our national security. … Then there wouldn’t be peace. There would be permanent bloodshed and ultimately a general war under the harshest conditions ever imagined … May I say to you a simple word: Never. [Sustained applause.]

    The words to which Begin objected were removed, and three days later the Camp David Accords were signed.

    Ehud Barak’s current $20 billion gambit is likely a trial balloon, an attempt to build support for a “peace agreement” in which Israel gives up defensible borders in exchange for money to help defend indefensible ones. It is not a trade Menachem Begin would have made.

    Voltaire, a wise anti-Semite who remarked correctly that should the Jews get their own state, they would sell it.

  2. Steven, How old are you? You still don’t know that there’s no free meal?
    And advise to DM Ehud Barack My granny told me: Never, but never ask for something you no for sure you will get a negative response to, and never don’t ask a question you don’t know the answer to.
    But I do agree that 20 Billions is a big enough weapon to shoot yourself in the foot.
    Either your boss made you say this as Micheal Wiener already suggested, or you yourself came up with this brilliant idea, don’t you worry baby, Israel as whole is going to pay the bill.

  3. I was under the impression that the annual $3 billion a year “allocated” to Israel benefits almost exclusively the US economy since it is money that must be spent in the US. So it would be the same for $30 billions or $500 billions.
    Under this premise, E. Barak is right.

  4. As an American I support the present amount of aid to Israel but America cannot afford an increase in aid. If Israel can handle a reduction I say we should gradually begin to reduce the amount of aid sent. America and Israel are mutually in need of one another.

  5. Get a grip people. I agree that Barak should not be DM, and in the same mouthful Bibi should not be PM. However, the US does not give “aid” to Israel because it is good for Israel. They give “aid” to Israel because it is good for the US. The US would not give Israel a dime if they didn’t think it was in their interest to do so. They didn’t give Israel anything until after the Six Day War. Why is that? The answer is that they realized that Israel is a force in the region and they wanted to have some influence, so give them money and make then feel indebted to you. Israel has to spend most of that money in the US giving it to specific military contractors. There have been many studies showing that the aid is actually detrimental to Israel. It keeps Israel dependent on US made weapons and costs Israel thousands of jobs that would be created were Israel to build many of its own weapons, not to mention exporting them. They have already proven that they can build them better and cheaper than the US.

    So now you ask, why does the US give aid to countries like Egypt? The same reason, but with a twist. Giving Egypt weapons forces the other neighboring Arab countries to buy better weapons to keep pace. An arms race is great for the county selling the arms.

  6. Michael wiener says: (aka HP, Hymie and HWSNBN):


    What transformation? Be specific. And explain why you think it is to Israel’s detriment?

  7. Michael wiener says: (aka HP, Hymie and HWSNBN):Who would you nominate as an alternative? . Perhaps such mental giants as Yamit or the Golda Meir wannabee, the extinguished, Laura whats her name? Even Belman might do in a pinch..


    “To err is Human and we all make mistakes but I will guarantee you one thing, were I PM or DM of Israel all my mistakes would be new mistakes not a repeat of previous mistakes, like we see with our past and current leaders.”

  8. Barak’s foot and mouth are both super-sized. And he should have been canned for being an oaf (years ago). But the EU treats him like Foreign Minister and Obama treats him like Prime Minister and Netanyahu treats him like King because he provides Bibi with political cover to remain in power and give J&S away.

    Ain’t Israeli politics grand?

  9. Laura says:
    March 8, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    The relationship has never been a one-way street

    Laura you correct and unfortunately the liberal left would like everyone to believe it’s a one way street, America gives and Israel takes.

    The US gets more in return from this true and trusted friend and ally Israel than any other country the US provides aid to.

    Israel over the years has provided stability in the ME, keeping her neighbors in check. Neighbors all of whom have the worlds worst human rights violations and cannot be trusted.

    Take notice how many of these Arab nations, so called friends are there when a national disaster occurs, you can bet Israel is there with her best.

    This president is not a friend of Israel so forget what he says, just watch what he does. His speeches lack substance.

    He cannot be trusted.

  10. On the contrary, it would strengthen the relationship by showing that it’s not a one-way street, that Israel is also sensitive to America’s needs.

    The relationship has never been a one-way street. Israel is a strategic asset which provides intelligence information among other things to America. Having said that, I agree that it’s beyond foolish for Barak to ask for more money and that Bibi should renounce his request and announce a phase-out of aid, as the writer suggests.