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Why the U.S. Won't Cut Ties with Israel, No Matter How Extreme Its Government Gets

A thick web of military-strategic ties is at the heart of the US-Israeli relationship.

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A couple of weeks earlier, the Obama administration had asked Congress – not that they needed much urging – for an additional $205 million to pay for Israel’s new Iron Dome anti-rocket system.  That one will replace 4,100 more potential U.S. jobs.  But who’s counting?

And let’s not forget all of this is on top of the $30 BILLION in military aid George W. Bush promised to Israel over the next ten years, which President Obama immediately agreed to implement.  And on top of the absolute commitment to make sure Israel is never held accountable at the United Nations for its violations of international law, or in the U.S. for its violations of U.S. domestic law (like the Arms Export Control Act).

Although many of the far-right hawkish elements, neo-cons and otherwise, that have mobilized for years for an attack on Iran are mostly not inside the Obama administration, there are exceptions. Non-partisan hawk Dennis Ross is still President Obama’s top adviser on Iran.  And we should not forget that 47 members of Congress – fully a third of the Republicans in the House – recently supported a resolution explicitly endorsing, really almost encouraging, Israel’s “right” to attack Iran. And then the joint military exercises.  One of them, Juniper Cobra (don’t you love these tree-grows-in-the-desert names?) was last fall, just as war-talk against Iran was rising once again.  According to Brig-Gen Doron Gavish of the Israel Air Force, it was “not aimed at any country in the region,” but was simply to “present the opportunity for a technological and professional exchange with the US military.” Oh, okay. So it’s not about Iran.  Uh-huh.

Recent reports indicate some in the U.S. have decided the best response to Israeli threats of a strike against Iran, is perhaps to keep relations with Israel really really tight – maybe to head off such an attack, maybe to keep abreast of the planning, maybe to help in the attack, maybe all of the above. The dangerous consequences of such a reckless action remain.  (A few years ago I wrote about what would happen “ the day after” a military attack on Iran…unfortunately it remains relevant.)

Of course the strategic ties are not only military – they include economic, political, diplomatic and other support, some of them even more important than the military.  

But right now the military ties are key. Look at a few of what Rep. Howard Berman, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, prepared as 2010 election talking points for Democrats

•            President Obama has spent more time trying to block Iran’s nuclear ambitions than any other foreign policy issue and it’s something he raises as his top priority in virtually every conversation with world leaders.

•            President Obama and Democrats in Congress have provided Israel with every single penny of foreign assistance appropriations that Israel has asked for.  In 2007, the United States and Israel signed a 10-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that calls for the U.S. to provide $30 billion in security assistance over the following 10 years.

•            Under President Obama, Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge, or QME, is being reestablished, after having been neglected for too many years, and the U.S. and Israel have achieved new levels of close security cooperation. Later this year, the Pentagon is likely to sell Israel an initial batch of 25 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, the most advanced aircraft in the U.S. arsenal, and other sensitive technology. 

•            The United States and Israel recently completed their largest-ever joint military exercise.  The three-week Juniper Cobra 10 air defense exercise involved deployment of a thousand U.S. troops, from all four branches of service, alongside an equal number of Israel Defense Forces personnel.•            The Obama Administration has integrated U.S. missile defense technology into Israel's expanding anti-missile shield.  …The Administration also will continue to fund development of the Arrow-3, the most advanced variant of Israel's long-range, high-altitude system for countering Iranian ballistic missiles.

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