Why a House Bill Damages Middle East Peace Prospects and Fuels Israeli Belligerence

While budget cuts are contemplated at home, Congress is set to deliver more money and weapons to Israel.

By once again demonstrating Congress’s bottomless cup of munificence for Israel, actions last week by the House of Representatives make painful across-the-board budget cuts more likely.  U.S. taxpayers will be even more complicit than before in bankrolling Israel’s nearly 45-year military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip. Additionally, the American "generosity" will shred whatever little credibility the United States has left in attempting to portray itself as an “honest broker” to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on an equitable basis.  And urging new weapons systems for Israel could help facilitate an attack on Iran. 

On May 7, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense released its draft 2013 budget bill, which includes an eye-popping $949 million for the research, development, and procurement of anti-missile systems to benefit Israel, including $680 million to purchase additional Iron Dome batteries.

The utility of the Iron Dome system, which is designed to intercept and destroy the crude, short-range projectiles fired by militants from the Gaza Strip, was demonstrated in March during an exchange of fire in which Israel killed 24 Palestinians and wounded 79. Iron Dome reportedly knocked down over 90 percent of missiles headed for civilian areas, resulting in no Israeli casualties. 

While both Israeli and Palestinian civilians should of course be free from the fear of incoming missiles, by funding Iron Dome, the United States is largely immunizing Israeli civilians from the effects of conflict while leaving Palestinians in the Gaza Strip extremely vulnerable to Israel’s much more lethal assaults conducted with the most sophisticated U.S. missiles. While the Gaza Strip’s 1.6 million residents remain beleaguered under Israel’s blockade and collective punishment, Iron Dome perpetuates this injustice by significantly reducing the cost to Israel of maintaining this policy.

This funding comes on top of a record-breaking request from the Obama Administration to provide Israel with $3.1 billion in military aid in the 2013 budget.  All told, the U.S. taxpayer is likely to be on the hook for more than $4 billion in weapons for Israel this budget cycle, at a time when the White House has proposed budget cuts for food safety inspection, water infrastructure, medical care and much more to avert the prospect of the across-the-board budget cuts from taking effect. 

By dramatically increasing money for weapons to Israel — the 28th wealthiest country in the world in 2011 according to the International Monetary Fund, with a per capita income greater than Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, and South Korea — the House risks budget cuts to important social services that benefit millions of Americans for the sake of perpetuating Israel’s military occupation. 

In addition, on Wednesday, the House voted 411-2 with 9 abstentions to pass the AIPAC-inspired U.S.-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act, a resolution with far-reaching implications for making the United States more complicit in Israel’s human rights abuses of the Palestinian people and for facilitating an Israeli strike against Iran.  Although no price tag is attached to this resolution, by dangling before Israel even greater promises of access to U.S. weapons, the resolution sets the stage for more taxpayer largesse in the future. 

Among many other problematic provisions, this ill-timed resolution urges the United States to provide Israel with air refueling tankers, a capability that military analysts believe the Israeli air force would need in order to launch an attack on Iran.  The resolution also urges the provision to Israel of unspecified “specialized munitions” that could also be used to attack Iran.  By passing a resolution that would facilitate an Israeli attack on Iran at a time when negotiators are attempting to peacefully resolve the Iranian nuclear enrichment standoff, the House unnecessarily ratcheted up tension and made the likelihood of war greater.

The resolution also includes a laundry list of items designed to deepen U.S.-Israel military ties that would only reinforce Israel’s ever-hardening grip on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, rather than provide an appropriate mixture of policy carrots and sticks to advance the prospect of Israel’s ending its military occupation as a step towards Israeli-Palestinian peace.  The resolution commits the U.S. to giving Israel additional weapons from forward-deployed stockpiles of U.S. weapons already in Israel, providing additional loan guarantees, handing over additional weapons from the U.S. war in Iraq, and pushing greater Israeli participation in NATO.

Rather than routinely passing appropriations bills and resolutions that fund more weapons to Israel and deepen U.S.-Israel military ties, the House should reconsider how its military support for Israel is fueling Israeli belligerency, eroding the prospects for peace in the Middle East, and enabling a potential Israeli attack on Iran with U.S. weapons.  Doing so is not to the benefit of Israelis, Palestinians, or Iranians; neither is it to the advantage of the U.S. taxpayer who will foot the bill for Israeli militarism.

Josh Ruebner is the National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and a former Analyst in Middle East Affairs at Congressional Research Service. He is the author of the forthcoming book tentatively entitled Shattered Hopes: Obama and the Quest for Israeli-Palestinian Peace (Verso Books).
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