American relationship with Israel under scrutiny

Faisal Ali The United States and Israel share an intimate relationship. Israel was a key ally during the Cold War and ever since the security of the country has been one of Washington’s primary concerns. As a result, the US provides Israel not just with military, political, and moral support but also financial. Since World War II Israel has received a total of $121 billion in foreign aid a figure constantly increasing. 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 – a reserve of high tech U.S. military equipment. 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. Israel’s shelling of a UN school used as a shelter by civilians this summer, was described by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as a ‘criminal act’ and a ‘moral outrage’, prompting Henry Siegman, President of the U.S./Middle East Project and a former Executive Director of the American Jewish Congress to describe the siege, “as a way no people should be made to live”. It is a wide consensus that Israel has 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, which has not only proved dangerous for Palestine but has proved problematic for the United States. 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. setting a bad precedent for the sinners of tomorrow undermining the capacity for the superpower and its allies, as major international players, to mediate conflict, broker talks, maintain peace, and protect human security. Furthermore, with a whole set of domestic issues that are damaging the U.S. internally, such as increasing homelessness, inequality, issues with race relations, 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, which may not resonate well with American tax payers. 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 United States. With criticism of Israel increasing dramatically, the US may find itself in an uncomfortable position of having to defend its Middle Eastern ally against claims of war crimes and with no end in sight in this conflict it is likely that future Israeli incursions, a military described as ‘trigger happy’, 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 it may be unrealistic that the U.S. will ever go that far, it certainly may have to re-examine its “special relationship” with Israel.