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Key Neocons Call for Ending U.S. Aid to Israel

July 29, 2014

In their controversial 2007 book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, authors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt proposed a dramatic change in American financial aid for Israel currently amounting to $3 billion annually. "It is time to treat Israel like a normal country," they argued, "and make U.S. aid conditional on an end to the occupation and Israel's willingness to conform its policies to American interests." For this (among other perceived sins), the two men were vilified by many American politicians, press and pundits, and were quickly labelled anti-Semites--and worse.

But now, some of the same voices that led the charge against Mearsheimer and Walt are now calling for ending U.S. aid to Israel altogether. At the front of that pack is Elliot Abrams. But the Iran-Contra conspirator, Iraq war architect and cheerleader for a preventive U.S. war to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities doesn't wants to terminate financial support to enhance American leverage on Israel, but to dramatically curtail Washington's influence over the Jewish State.
As Eli Lake explained in The Daily Beast, right now President Obama, overwhelming bipartisan majorities in Congress and the American Israeli Political Action Committee remain committed to sending billions in U.S. aid for years to come. But some of the usual suspects among the neoconservative movement have a different take:

"The experience of the Obama years has sharpened the perception among pro-Israel Americans that aid can cut against Israel by giving presidents with bad ideas more leverage than they would otherwise have," said Noah Pollak, the executive director of the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI)... aid provides easy fodder for critics to claim that the alliance is a burden on the United States or that it's a one-way street of America giving and Israel receiving. All things being equal, why not remove these falsehoods from the debate?"

Abrams, who has called on Congress for an authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) to give President Obama a free hand to bomb Iran, wants to give Benjamin Netanyahu and his successors a free hand, period.

"My view is over time it would be healthy for the relationship if the aid diminished. Israel should be less dependent on American financial assistance and should become the kind of ally that we have in Australia, Canada, or the United Kingdom: an intimate military relationship and alliance, but no military aid."

(It should be noted, as former Ambassador to Washington Michael Oren did, that the United States does not have a mutual defense agreement with Israel. Then again, unlike Australia, Canada or the United Kingdom, Israel's power is not fungible on behalf of the United States. As the experience of the First Gulf War showed to the chagrin of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, justifiable Israeli retaliation against Iraqi Scud missile strikes would have shattered the allied coalition that ejected Saddam Hussein from Kuwait.)
With the Israeli economy booming and soon to be bolstered by massive proceeds from new natural gas discoveries, the once vital American billions will seem increasingly incongruous. As Abrams put it, "I do not believe a country that has a sovereign wealth fund can be an aid recipient."
It's no surprise that David Wurmser would agree. Wurmser, an aide to Dick Cheney who resigned in 2007 over the Bush's administration's catastrophic policy that enabled Hamas to take over Gaza, as far back as 1996 called Israel to graduate from being a "tenuous project" to a "real country." Now a consultant for U.S. firms looking to invest in the Israeli energy sector, Wurmser argues that the U.S. should cut the cord precisely so Israel can operate with impunity free of pressure from Washington:

"The aid both implied a lack of feasibility of the state as well as tying the state's hands and reducing its freedom to maneuver. Both of which are inappropriate for a truly independent country, which it had become in this period."

That's putting it mildly. As the withering criticism of Secretary of State John Kerry from the Israeli government and press shows, our ally like any other will ultimately do what it believes are necessary for its--and not American--interests. (That 87 percent of Israelis don't want a truce to prevent the suddenly very popular Benjamin Netanyahu to crush Hamas in Gaza is reflects the two nation's diverging national interests.) While not all of their fellow travelers agree, the message from the neoconservatives seems to be this. Israel will--and should--do whatever it wants to anyway; Americans might as well as save that $3 billion a year. Apparently, it's better for Stephen Walt, John Mearsheimer and millions of American taxpayers to be frustrated for free.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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