Age of Austerity Bolsters Calls for Lowered Aid
If Israel is slashing defense spending, some ask, why shouldn’t America?
Influential Washington Post national security columnist Walter Pincus is making waves for suggesting last week that, in light of the possibly inefficient and clearly unique state of U.S. military aid to Israel, the United States should consider giving less than the billions in direct aid and loan guarantees that it currently does each year. “Nine days ago, the Israeli cabinet reacted to months of demonstrations against the high cost of living there and agreed to raise taxes on corporations and people with high incomes ($130,000 a year),” Pincus writes. “It also approved cutting more than $850 million, or about 5 percent, from its roughly $16 billion defense budget in each of the next two years. If Israel can reduce its defense spending because of its domestic economic problems, shouldn’t the United States—which must cut military costs because of its major budget deficit—consider reducing its aid to Israel?”
Pincus’ column very quickly gets highly technical, going into the byzantine intricacies of the aid relationship, including the method by which the policy of ensuring Israel’s “qualitative military edge” practically ensures a U.S.-funded arms race in the Middle East (“for example, the threat to both countries from Iran led the Saudis in 2010 to begin negotiations to purchase advanced F-15 fighters. In turn, Israel—using $2.75 billion in American military assistance—has been allowed to buy 20 of the new F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighters”).
Pincus’ point is that the impetus is coming more from Israel than from America. Here, Pincus makes a nice complement to the Center for Strategic and International Studies fellow Haim Malka, whose new report, “Crossroads,” calls on Israel to voluntarily reduce its U.S. military aid. I spoke to Malka about his report last month. “The point I raise in the report—and this is consistent with the views of many Israeli officials—is that Israel’s long-term security interests and viability are better-served by being less dependent on the United States,” he told me. “Some level of interdependency is important. But the long term Israeli goal should be to wean itself off U.S. military aid in exchange for greater military-to-military cooperation, joint research and development of new defense systems, and greater Israeli access to American military technology. Essentially maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge.”