Photo Credit: Wikimedia / Bukvoed / cc2.5
IAI Lavi Fighter Jet

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Tuesday tweeted that, in response to Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar’s call to reconsider US aid to Israel, he has reconsidered and come to the conclusion that “it’s time to provide MORE assistance to Israel for their missile defense program.”

As you may recall, the 2016 aid agreement cobbled in the final days of the Obama administration included a bump to $3.8 billion a year (from roughly $3 billion), but as part of the deal Israel had to commit not to solicit additional grants from Congress. Those off-aid grants, which came to about half a billion a year, went to the US-Israel collaboration on Iron Dome and later, longer range missile defense systems. Graham was likely referring to the need to revive those grants.

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“It’s time to provide MORE assistance to Israel for their missile defense program,” Senator Graham suggested. “Why? Because Iran has provided thousands more missiles to Hezbollah in Lebanon and openly supports Hamas in Gaza… The threats from Iran – to our close friend and ally Israel – are only growing. Iran has already broken enrichment conditions regarding their nuclear program. The Iranians are a bad actor in the region, sowing discord at every turn.”

One Anna Le Claire tweeted a somewhat idealized notion of Israel’s economic strength, with a hilarious picture of Bibi Netanyahu as “America’s #1 welfare queen” and the text: “We need to cutoff Israel’s welfare. Israeli citizens have a higher standard of living than Americans. They have universal healthcare and cheap education.”

Le Claire’s figures are a bit off the mark: the US GDP per capita is projected to trend around $54,800.00 this year, while Israel’s hovers between $38,000 and $40,000. Also, Israel’s cost of living is among the highest in the OECD, meaning that this per capita income buys less than in the US.

But Le Claire also follows a growing trend, especially on the American left, but also with the heated input of Senator Rand Paul (R- Kentucky), that calls to use US aid as a means of pressuring the Jewish State to comply with US policy, such as the two-state solution. This trend presents its case in a typically leftwing a-historic fashion as to the reasons the US gives Israel more money than to any other country on the planet.

Senator Lindsey Graham and White House envoy Jason Greenblatt in eastern Jerusalem, June 30, 2019. / Flash90

As the broker of the 1979 Camp David peace accords between Egypt and Israel, the United States funded the relocation of Israel’s air force bases from the Sinai Peninsula, and increased economic and security aid to Israel.

Until recently, Israel received $3 billion annually in US assistance through Foreign Military Financing (FMF), with the condition that 74% of these funds had to be spent on the acquisition of US defense equipment, services, and training. Only 26% could be spent by Israel’s defense ministry to purchase from the local military industries. The Obama deal came with a progressive elimination of the Israeli purchases in its local market, until by the sunset year all $3.8 billion will remain in America.

This means that should Congress and the administration decide to suspend the aid to Israel (which is inconceivable today, but quite likely with Senators Sanders or Warren in the White House), the move would introduce lost jobs and income to the tune of close to $40 billion over 10 years.

Ouch.

There are other factors. As Senator Paul put it most succinctly: “Aid hampers Israel’s ability to make its own decisions as it sees fit.” A case in point: in the 1980s, Israel developed the IAI Lavi, a single-engine, fourth-generation multirole jet fighter that competed successfully with American jets on the export market. The Lavi performed successfully in flight-tests, with its flight handling described as “excellent” by test pilots. The Lavi was going to be the mainstay of the Israeli Air Force, and a considerable number of sales abroad was projected. The uniqueness of its design was in the combination of a small, aerodynamic, highly maneuverable plane, with sophisticated, software-rich systems, low armed drag, and the ability to carry a large payload at high-speed and over long distances.

In short, the Lavi project meant future losses in the hundreds of billions of dollars to US companies, which is why the Reagan administration saw fit to twist Israel’s arm to shut down the project in return for about $600 million a year.

Israel is holding on to two prototypes, should anyone be interested in messing with this payoff…

There are numerous additional in cases in which Israel’s vast military industry and other technological enterprises have had to succumb to US pressure and abstain from selling sensitive technology to China and other countries. Should it become unshackled from US restraints on sales, Israel would easily take in double the $3.8 billion a year it is receiving.

But the US-Israel relationship means a whole lot more than money.

The fact is, though, that over the decades since its complicated relationship with the Reagan and Bush I administrations, Israel has grown to become the US’ most reliable ally that functions just short of being the 51st state. The benefits—logistical, military, and monetary—the US derives from its friendship with Israel by far outweigh the cost, which comes to roughly 0.095% of the US annual budget of $4 trillion.

Even if Senator Graham adds the half billion President Obama took down…

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