US State Department Official Declares “Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge” is President’s Top Priority

Israeli Human Rights Abuses Ignored

By Patrick J. Finn, PhD, Freedom Forward Analyst
December 18, 2011

On November 4, 2011, Andrew J. Shapiro, United States Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, delivered a policy speech (text) (video) to a pro-Israeli think tank in Washington DC.  In his speech, he stated that “since day one, President Obama and Secretary Clinton have not only honored and re-energized America’s enduring commitment to Israel’s security, but have taken action to expand it to an unparalleled level.”

Shapiro delivered his speech to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), an organization established in 1985 by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).  Its mission is to influence the White House as AIPAC influences Congress.  Shapiro, who was once employed by WINEP, has been a long-time advisor to Hillary Clinton both in her current role as US Secretary of State and when she was a US Senator.

The speech revealed the enormous extent of US military aid to Israel, but it failed to examine our complicity in Israel’s human rights abuses that are enabled, at least partly, by our generous aid.

First, the extent of our aid as revealed by Shapiro:

  • The United States Foreign Military Financing program gives military assistance to 70 countries.  Sixty percent of that military assistance goes to Israel.
  • The Administration has requested more than $3 billion in security assistance funding for Israel for Fiscal Year 2012, the largest such request in US history.
  • Despite the huge U.S deficit, budget cuts, and high unemployment, Israel is the only country authorized to set aside one-quarter of its Foreign Military Financing funding for offshore procurements.  That is, Israel can spend over $750 million in US aid doing business with countries other than America—itself for example.  Shapiro points out emphatically that this provides a significant boost for Israel’s domestic defense industry.
  • In addition, the US gives Israel millions of dollars in free or discounted military equipment each year through the Department of Defense’s Excess Defense Articles Program.
  • In 2010, President Obama asked Congress to authorize $205 million to support the production of an Israeli-developed rocket defense system above and beyond the Foreign Military Financing program.
  • Although Congress must be notified of foreign aid for military spending over a certain dollar amount, Israel will soon be given an “expedited Congressional Notification process” so that much larger grants can go to Israel without notifying Congress.

Shapiro insists that this is all in our national self-interest.  He does not address the fact that in the eyes of the world our aid to Israel makes US share responsibility for Israel’s egregious treatment of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories

Even Jeffery Goldberg, a staunch defender of Israel, admits that the settlements and the Palestinian human rights abuses attendant upon them bring Israel into disrepute.  In a November 18, 2011, New York Times book review Goldberg writes, “….the majority of Israelis, if they ever loved the settlements, appear to love them no more….But the majority is powerless in the face of the relentless settler minority.”  The Israeli majority could be empowered by the U. S. demand that our aid become contingent on an end to the settlements beginning with stopping all expansion now.

Freedom Forward Recommendations:

Instead of expanding US military assistance to the Israeli government, US policy should:

  • Make all military aid to Israel contingent on Israeli support for peace.   Israel must stop the expansion of settlements, dismantle current settlements, and respect human rights in the West Bank and Gaza.
  • End all efforts to hide US military aid to Israel from Congress by making it less transparent