For all the chatter about animosity between U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Washington Post reports that “a senior Israeli official will arrive in Washington next week for a final round of negotiations involving the largest military aid package the United States has ever given any country and that will last more than a decade after President Obama leaves office.” The U.S. already transfers $3.1 billion in taxpayer money every year to Israel — more than any other country by far — but the new agreement Obama is set to sign “significantly raises” that amount, and guarantees it for 10 years.
In response to this massive windfall, Netanyahu is angry that he is not getting even more. For some time, “Netanyahu was holding out for as much as $5 billion a year.” Also, Israel has been opposed to efforts to direct more of that aid to U.S. military contractors rather than Israeli ones (so this “aid” package is as much a transfer of U.S. taxpayer money to weapons manufacturers in both countries as it is to Israel itself). Moreover, “Israelis are also said to be displeased with a U.S. position that whatever amount of money they agree on will be final and that Israel will not go to Congress requesting more money.”
Usually, when someone hands you billions of dollars in aid, you’re not in much of a position to demand more. But the rules for Israel when it comes to U.S. policy, as is so often the case, are simply different. Even as Israel has aggressively expanded settlements of the West Bank (often in a way designed to most humiliate the U.S.) and slaughtered civilians in Gaza, U.S. aid simply increases more and more. What’s particularly fascinating about all of this is that Netanyahu originally intended to wait until the “next administration” to finalize the deal — because, assuming that would be Hillary Clinton, he believed (with good reason) he would get an even better deal — but is now worried about an “unpredictable” Donald Trump, who has spouted standard pro-Israel rhetoric before AIPAC (and worse) but had previously espoused the need for “neutrality” on the Israel/Palestine question and has made “America First” the rhetorical centerpiece of his campaign.
All of this means that the U.S. generally, and Democrats specifically, bear direct responsibility for the hideous brutality and oppression imposed by Israel on Palestinians through decades of occupation. That’s because, as a 2012 Congressional Resources Service report documented, “Almost all U.S. aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance. U.S. military aid has helped transform Israel’s armed forces into one of the most technologically sophisticated militaries in the world. U.S. military aid for Israel has been designed to maintain Israel’s ‘qualitative military edge’ over neighboring militaries.” And, of course, Clinton herself vowed in a letter to Democratic Party billionaire funder Haim Saban and her speech to AIPAC to do everything possible to oppose a boycott of Israel in order to end the occupation.
What’s perhaps most shocking of all is how little attention or debate any of this receives. Would Americans really be supportive of transferring billions of dollars every year to Israel, and then entering into a new agreement to significantly increase that amount and guaranteeing it — placing it beyond debate — for 10 more years? That seems doubtful. To begin with, Israel enjoys universal health care coverage, while “33 million Americans, 10.4 percent of the U.S. population,” remain without health insurance. That disparity is captured in headlines such as this one:
As The Forward put it in 2012: “Israeli citizens appear to be getting better care [than Americans] for their lower expenditures.” Fortunately for Israel, the people of that country enjoy a much higher life expectancy than the citizens of the country that transfers billions to them every year. According to the most recent CIA statistics, Israelis can expect to live 82.27 years — 11th best in the world — while Americans can expect only 79.68 years, which is 43rd in the world.
Israeli infants also fare much better than American infants. Israel has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world (3.55 deaths for every 1,000 births), while 5.87 American babies die for every 1,000 births. Just last month, unemployment in Israel fell to the lowest level in decades (4.8 percent, which “is not only low historically but low by international standards, and by conventional economic definitions there’s no unemployment at all in Israel”), while U.S. workers, despite declining unemployment rates, continue to struggle when “the underemployed and the discouraged” are counted.
In sum, U.S. politicians in both parties endlessly pay lip service to how much Americans are struggling while the Obama administration prepares to transfer more and more billions of their money to Israel. The U.S. does so even as Israel pursues with more aggression than ever the very policies that the U.S. claims to find so objectionable and destructive (just two days ago, the State Department said Israel “is systematically undermining the prospects for a two-state solution” by continuing to expand illegal settlements).
Just compare (a) the rhetoric Democrats love to spout about themselves to (b) their treatment of Palestinians to see how empty the former is. And just imagine what would happen if this policy of transferring even more billions of American taxpayer money to Israel were widely debated instead of ignored as Bipartisan Consensus.