The Delusion of U.S. Aid

By Former Ambassador Yoram Ettinger

Before Israel disburses the billions of dollars in US aid – to defray the cost of another Israeli retreat ("Realignment") – the US has to approve such an aid package. However, the chance of approving such a package is identical to the chance of Israel receiving US financial aid for previous retreats from Southern Lebanon, Northern Samaria and Gaza – Zero!

THE EXPECTATION – BY TOP ISRAELI OFFICIALS – that the US would eventually help finance a mega-billion dollar retreat from Judea & Samaria and the uprooting of scores of Jewish communities, ignores recent precedents, demonstrates lack of sensitivity to US budgetary constraints, reflects misunderstanding of the US political system, and manifests miscomprehension of vital US interests in the Mideast. Such an expectation undermines the strategic posture of Israel in the US.

IN 2000, PRIME MINISTER BARAK CONTENDED that President Clinton was committed to an $800MN aid package, in order to induce a retreat from Southern Lebanon. In 2004/5, Prime Minister Sharon and Deputy Prime Minister Olmert impressed upon the Israeli public that President Bush would provide $1BN-$2BN, in order to facilitate the $3BN retreat from Gaza and Northern Samaria. Not a penny was transferred to Israel! Contrary to Barak’s, Sharon’s and Olmert’s statements, Clinton and Bush never committed to these aid packages, just as they never committed to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over any Jewish settlement beyond the 1949 Green Line. Moreover, Congress – and not the Administration – possesses the Power of the Purse, and all disbursements require a complex legislative process, and not just positive presidential declarations, which are constitutionally and internationally non-binding.

THE U.S. CONGRESS IS CURRENTLY DEBATING A SERIES OF PAINFUL BUDGETARY CUTS, against the background of a threatening $300BN budget deficit, the rising cost of the wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq ($4BN monthly), the dramatic increase in the price of oil, the $200BN devastation caused by Katrina and other storms, etc. Legislators are raiding the defense budget, in order to fund domestic projects. Senator Thad Cochran, Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, is fighting over $900MN for the reconstruction of a shipyard and railroad tracks in Mississippi. Senator Landrieu is struggling to secure $12BN for the rebuilding of the Katrina-plagued area. The Senate seeks a $14BN cut, and the President’s political-base threatens to desert him unless he trims the budget deficit.

THE AFTERMATH OF ISRAEL’S RETREATS from Southern Lebanon, Gaza and Northern Samaria has convinced leading US legislators that Israel’s retreat from terrorist strongholds undermines vital US concerns in the Mideast. Thus, the US is the leader in the war on Islamic terrorism, it has decimated two major terrorist regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, it acts to neutralize the Iranian nuclear threat and intimidates the Assad regime, it supports the Hashemite regime and other pro-US regimes in the Persian Gulf, and it attempts to lower the Mideast profile of Russia, China and North Korea. But, Israel’s retreat from Southern Lebanon (June 2000) has propelled Hizballah – the role model of IEDs – to a major role in the anti-US terrorist campaign. Moreover, Israel’s retreat from Gaza and Northern Samaria (August 2005) has transformed these areas into the largest terrorist base in the region, has adrenalized the veins of regional – including anti US – terrorism (which has escalated since "disengagement"), has upgraded the effectiveness of Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists (who have been credited, by the Palestinian Street, with Israel’s retreat), has enhanced the influence of their allies in Iran, Syria and the pro-Saddam camp, has intensified the threat to the survival of the Hashemite regime and pro-US regimes in the Persian Gulf, has advanced the regional profile of Russia, China and North Korea, has undermined Israel’s posture of deterrence, and therefore has set the area closer to an all out war and farther from peace. Another retreat from Judea & Samaria – which possesses a unique strategic edge – would exacerbate the aforementioned threats and would threaten the supply lines to – and the operational maneuverability of – US troops in Iraq. A continued US and Israeli support of an expanded Palestinian domain would defy the consequences of Palestinian entrenchment in Syria (1966), Jordan (1970), Lebanon (1975/6) and Kuwait (1990) – fueling instability, subversion and bloodshed in the Mideast.

"REALIGNMENT", JUST LIKE "DISENGAGEMENT", IS NOT AN AMERICAN IDEA, and therefore the US does not feel obligated to support it. The US has always respected (although many times disagreed with) an Israel, which is a producer – rather than a consumer – of national security and deterrence. The US has preferred an Israel, which extends the "Long Military Arm" of the US rather than an Israel which requires an American helping hand, an Israel which defeats terrorists rather than an Israel which negotiates with terrorist, an Israel which attacks terrorists at their own End Zone rather than retreats from terrorists towards its own End Zone, an Israel which excels in military operations a’ la 1988 (counter-terrorism), 1982 (blasting Soviet surface to air missiles), 1981 (Ozirak), 1976 (Antebbe), 1967 (Six Day War), 1956 (Sinai) and 1948 (War of Independence) and not in retreats.

Rather than fantasizing over a special US aid package, the Israeli public should study the Texas colloquialism: "Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me!"