What Obama's people are publically starting to say is that regional peace is about U.S. vital interests in that large part of the Middle East and, ultimately, the safety of American soldiers and personnel. As one retired diplomat commented "This could be a game-changer."
On July 10, 1996, at a Joint Session of the United
States Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received a standing
ovation for these words: "With America's help, Israel has grown to be a
powerful, modern state. "But I believe there can be no greater tribute to
America's long-standing economic aid to Israel than for us to be able to say: we
are going to achieve economic independence. We are going to do it. In the next
four years, we will begin the long-term process of gradually reducing the level
of your generous economic assistance to Israel."
Since 1996, the American
taxpayers are still sending Israel $3 billion a year and providing assorted loan
guarantees, waivers, rich technology transfers and other indirect assistance.
Before George W. Bush left office a memorandum of understanding between the U.S.
and Israel stipulated an assistance package of $30 billion over the next ten
years to be transferred in a lump sum at the beginning of every fiscal year.
Israel's wars and colonies still receive U.S. taxpayer monies.
happened to Mr. Netanyahu's solemn pledge to the Congress? The short answer is
that Congress never called in the pledge.
In the intervening years,
Israel has become an economic, technological and military juggernaut. Its GDP is
larger than Egypt's even though Israel's population is less than one tenth that
of the Arab world's most populous nation. The second largest number of listings
on America's NASDAQ Exchange after U.S. companies are from Israel, exceeding
listings of Japan, Korea, China and India combined. Its venture capital
investments exceed those in the U.S., Europe and China on a per capita
Israel is arguably the fifth most powerful military force in the
world, and Israel's claims on the U.S.'s latest weapon systems and
research/development breakthroughs are unsurpassed. This combination has helped
to make Israel a major arms exporter.
The Israeli "economic miracle" and
technological innovations have spawned articles and a best-selling book in
recent months. The country's average GDP growth rate has exceeded the average
rate of most western countries over the past five years. Israel provides
universal health insurance, unlike the situation in the U.S., which raises the
question of who should be aiding whom?
Keep in mind, the U.S. economy is
mired in a recession, with large rates of growing poverty, unemployment,
consumer debt and state and federal deficits. In some states, public schools are
shutting, public health services are being slashed, and universities are
increasing tuition while also cutting programs. Even state government buildings
are being sold off.
Under U.S. law, military sales to Israel cannot be
used for offensive purposes, only for "legitimate self-defense." Nonetheless,
there have been numerous violations of the Arms Export Control Act by Israel.
Even the indifferent State Department has found, from time to time, that
munitions such as cluster bombs were "likely violations."
would lead to a cut-off in aid but with the completely pro-Israel climate in
Washington, the White House has never allowed such findings to be
The same indifference applies to violations of the U.S.
Foreign Assistance Act that prohibits aid to countries engaging in consistent
international human rights violations. These include the occupation,
colonization, blockades and military assaults on civilians in the Palestinian
West Bank and Gaza, regularly documented by the highly regarded Israeli human
rights group B'Tselem as well as by Amnesty International and Human Rights
This week, Prime Minister Netanyahu visits President Barack Obama
after the recent Israeli announcement of 1,600 new housing units in East
Jerusalem made while Vice President Joe Biden was visiting that
The affront infuriated New York Times columnist, Tom
Friedman, who wrote that Mr. Biden should have packed his bags and flown away
leaving behind a scribbled note saying "You think you can embarrass your only
true ally in the world, to satisfy some domestic political need, with no
consequences? You have lost total contact with reality."
former Times Middle East correspondent, concluded his rebuke by
writing: "Palestinian leaders Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad are as genuine and
serious about working toward a solution as any Israel can hope to
But until a few days ago, the U.S. government had no levers over
the Israeli government. Cutting off aid isn't even whispered in the halls of
Congress. Raising the issue would further galvanize Israel's allies, including
The only lever left for the U.S. suddenly erupted into the public
media a few days ago. General David Petraeus told the Senate that resolving the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict has foreign policy and national security
ramifications for the United States.
He said that "The conflict foments
anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab
anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S.
partnerships with governments and peoples in the Area of
Responsibility"Meanwhile, Al-Qaeda and other military groups exploit that anger
to mobilize support."
A few days earlier, Vice President Joe Biden told
Prime Minister Netanyahu in Israel that "what you're doing here undermines the
security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and
What Obama's people are publically starting to say is that
regional peace is about U.S. vital interests in that large part of the Middle
East and, ultimately, the safety of American soldiers and personnel.
one retired diplomat commented "This could be a game-changer."
Ralph Nader is one of America's most effective social critics. Named by The Atlantic as one of the 100 most influential figures in American history, and by Time and Life magazines as one of the hundred most influential Americans of the twentieth century, his documented criticism of government and industry has had widespread effect on public awareness and bureaucratic power. He is the "U.S.'s toughest customer" says Time magazine. His inspiration and example have galvanized a whole population of consumer advocates, citizen activists, and public interest lawyers who in turn have established their own organizations throughout the country.