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The Conservative Curmudgeon
January 5, 2013

Reconsidering the Massive U.S. Aid to Israel:
Has it become an impediment to peace?

by Allan C. Brownfeld

ALEXANDRIA, VA — Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. To date, the U.S. has provided Israel with $115 billion. The request for Fiscal Year 2013 includes $3.1 billion in military aid.

The U.S. has long advocated a two-state solution, with a Palestinian state established on the occupied West Bank. The Israelis, however, have continued to build settlements on this land and recently Prime Minister Netanyahu announced his government's determination to build thousands of new Jewish houses on the West Bank, where Palestinians hope to establish the capital of their new state. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chastised Netanyahu and the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, who previously served as President Obama's chief of staff, and is a firm supporter of Israel, called it a betrayal of America's friendship.

THE ECONOMIST notes that, "The houses Israel keeps on erecting on Palestinian territory are the main reason why so much of the world has lost sympathy for Israel's cause. The Palestinians have had to watch the Israelis gobbling up the land on which their state is meant to be based. Worse, the latest planned settlement, in a zone known as E-1, threatens to box Palestinians who live in East Jerusalem, which they hope to make their capital, into a sealed-off enclave, impeding connections to the rest of the fledgling state of Palestine and bisecting the northern and southern halves."

Many Jewish Americans have expressed dismay at Israel's policies. The Union for Reform Judaism, the largest religious movement in American Judaism, denounced the E-1 decision. On New York's Upper West Side, the rabbis and lay leaders of the large and respected Congregation B'nai Jeshurun, wrote to their thousands of members welcoming the U.N. resolution enhancing the status of Palestinians at the U.N.

By providing Israel with billions of dollars — with no strings attached — the U,S. has enabled Israel to pursue policies of occupation which our own policy opposes. Perhaps Israel would be more inclined to pursue the two-state solution which Mr. Netanyahu says he supports if it could not rely upon such open-ended American largesse.    
The billions we give Israel each year … is used to make the genuine peace we seek less and less possible to achieve.

More and more Americans are questioning such aid. In October, a letter by 15 leaders of Christian churches called for Congress to reconsider aid to Israel because of accusations of human rights violations. These leaders say their intention is to put the Palestinian plight and stalled peace talks back in the spotlight when all of the attention to Middle East policy seems to be focused on Syria, the Arab Spring and the Iranian nuclear threat.

"We asked Congress to treat Israel like it would any other country," said the Rev. Gradye Parsons, the top official of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), "to make sure our military aid is going to a country espousing the values we would as Americans — that it's not being used to continually violate the rights of other people."

The Christian leaders wrote that they had "witnessed widespread Israeli human rights violations against the Palestinians, including killing of civilians, home demolitions and forced displacement, and restrictions on Palestinian movement."

The letter said that Israel had continued expanding settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem despite American calls to stop "claiming territory that under international law and U.S. policy should belong to a future Palestinian state."

The signers, besides the Presbyterians, include leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Methodist Church, the National Council of Churches, the United Church of Christ, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the American Friends Service Committee (a Quaker agency), and the Mennonite Central Committee.

The letter acknowledges that, "Israel faces real security threats and it has both a right and a duty to protect the state and its citizens." But it called for "an immediate investigation into possible violations by Israel of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act, and the U.S. Arms Export Control Act."

A statement issued by Jewish Voice for Peace, in support of the letter by the Christian leaders, declared that, "The U.S. Foreign Assistance Act and the U.S. Arms Export Control Act specifically prohibit assistance to any country that engages in a consistent pattern of human rights violations, limiting the use of U.S. weapons to 'internal security' or 'legitimate self-defense.' As the letter notes, the most recent 2011 State Department country report on Human Rights Practices covering Israel and the Occupied Territories detailed numerous human rights violations committed by the Israeli military against Palestinian civilians — many of which involve the misuse of U.S.-supplied weapons. As Israel's primary ally, our country alone is able to create the kind of leverage that might challenge Israel to turn away from policies that impede the cause of a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians — and true security for all who live in the region."

Israel's prime minister has, it seems, been playing fast and loose with the U.S. and billions of dollars of U.S. aid. NEWSWEEK columnist Peter Beinart, author of the recent book "The Crisis of Zionism," points out that, "... Netanyahu has been brazenly intervening in American politics...since long before he became obsessed with Iran ... In 1989, as Israel's deputy foreign minister, Netanyahu pushed Congress so hard to scuttle the nascent dialogue between the U.S. and the PLO that James Baker briefly had him banned from the State Department. ...In his memoir, Dennis Ross recalls that after Netanyahu's first meeting with Bill Clinton as prime minister, Clinton remarked in bewilderment, 'He thinks he is the superpower and we are here to do what he requires.'"

Israel continues to settle occupied territory in violation of both international law and U.S. policy. This continuing and escalating occupation is making a two-state solution less and less likely. Without U.S. aid Israel's pursuit of such a destructive policy would be increasingly difficult to pursue. Friends don't let friends drive drunk. Clearly, the time has come to reconsider the billions we give Israel each year — and which is used to make the genuine peace we seek less and less possible to achieve.

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The Conservative Curmudgeon is copyright © 2013 by Allan C. Brownfeld and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. All rights reserved. Editors may use this column if this copyright information is included.

Allan C. Brownfeld is the author of five books, the latest of which is The Revolution Lobby (Council for Inter-American Security). He has been a staff aide to a U.S. Vice President, Members of Congress, and the U.S. Senate Internal Subcommittee.

He is associate editor of The Lincoln Reveiw and a contributing editor to such publications as Human Events, The St. Croix Review, and The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

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