Sunday, April 18, 2010

The opinions expressed are his own

When it comes to the Middle East conflict, Arabist and Reuters columnist Bernd Debusmann has a nasty habit of both cherry-picking and blatantly misrepresenting history.  In his latest effort to demonize and paint the Jewish state as a "liability" to US interests, Debusmann focuses on American aid to Israel (a favorite talisman for the anti-Israel crowd) with the suggestion that whereas reducing this sum might work as a lever to get Israel to "behave", cuts are unlikely to occur due to Congressional support for the Jewish state and of course, the all-powerful Israel lobby.  To produce a cogent argument, Debusmann needs to establish first that Israel is indeed a liability to the US and here he turns to remarks by General David Patraeus:
Or is lack of progress on making peace with the Palestinians turning Israel into a liability for its long-term benefactor. In March, in written testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Central Command chief General David Petraeus, listed "insufficient progress towards a comprehensive Middle East peace" as number five on a list of 15 threats to U.S. national security.
Debusmann doesn't cite of course, numbers 1 through 4 on Patraeus' threat list which include, in priority sequence, the Islamic insurgencies in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the pursuit of nuclear weapons and terrorism sponsoring activities of Iran, the situation in Iraq, and anarchy in Yemen.  Nor does Debusmann mention that at a subsequent press conference, Patraeus called attention to these threats and noted that they included, "a whole bunch of extremist organizations, some of which by the way deny Israel’s right to exist.  There’s a country that has a nuclear program who denies that the Holocaust took place.”

In fact, although all of the situations identified by Patraeus as national security threats are occurring in countries that are hostile to Israel, none of the issues are directly related to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs and none would resolve if the Israeli-Arab conflict were to magically end tomorrow.

Indeed, in a subsequent letter to Congressman Buck McKeon, who had asked for further clarification of his views on Israel, Patraeus wrote:
the issues that keep us up at night are not Israeli-Palestinian relations but rather “militant groups, hostile states, and weapons of mass destruction," along with "the instability in South Asia, the activities and policies of the Iranian regime, the situation in Iraq and the growth of al-Qaeda [in the Arabian Peninsula] in Yemen.”
Debusmann attempts to quantify his view that Israel is a liability to the US by facilely summing foreign aid contributions to Israel over the last 60 years:
Since the end of the Second World War, Israel has been the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign aid, according to the Congressional Research Service, the research arm of Congress. Since 1985, aid to Israel has run at around $3 billion a year, a sizable sum for a country with a population roughly equal to that of New York City.   
But Debusmann would make a lousy accountant for while he glances back at Israel as a presumed liability on America's balance sheet, he fails to account for Israel's ongoing value as an asset to the US.  From an article appearing in BusinessWeek this month:
Under the 2010 U.S. budget, about $75 billion, $65 billion and $3.25 billion will be spent on military operations and aid in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan during this fiscal year, respectively. Israel will receive $3 billion, in military aid only. There is no economic aid to Israel, other than loan guarantees that continue to be repaid in full and on time...
First, it’s important to remember that about 70 percent of the $3 billion aid must be used by Israel to purchase American military equipment. This provides real support for U.S. high- tech defense jobs and contributes to maintaining our industrial base. This helps the U.S. stay at the very top in the manufacturing of our own cutting-edge military munitions, aircraft, vehicles, missiles and virtually every defensive and offensive weapon in the U.S. arsenal -- with the added contribution of Israel’s renowned technical know-how.
Second, the U.S. and Israel are jointly developing state- of-the-art missile defense capabilities in the David’s Sling and Arrow 3 systems. These two technologies build on the already successful Arrow 2, jointly developed by our two countries, which is already providing missile defense security to Israel and U.S. civilians and ground troops throughout the region. The knowledge the U.S. gains from these efforts also has a positive multiplier effect on applications to other U.S. military and non-military uses and U.S. jobs.
Third, given Israel’s strategic location on the Mediterranean, with access to the Red Sea and other vital international shipping and military lanes of commerce and traffic, it is critically important to the U.S. that Israel continues to serve as a port of call for our troops, ships, aircraft and intelligence operations.

Israel also has permitted the U.S. to stockpile arms, fuel, munitions and other supplies on its soil to be accessed whenever America needs them in the region.
Fourth, America’s special relationship with Israel provides the U.S. with real-time, minute-to-minute access to one of the best intelligence services in the world: Israel’s. With Israeli agents gathering intelligence and taking action throughout the Middle East and, literally, around the world, regarding al- Qaeda, Hezbollah, Iran and Hamas, among others, the U.S. receives invaluable information about anti-U.S. and terrorist organizations and regimes.
Fifth, imagine the additional terrible cost in U.S. blood, and the hundreds of billions more of American taxpayer dollars, if Saddam Hussein had developed nuclear weapons, or if Syria possessed them.
Then remember that it was Israel that destroyed the almost- completed nuclear reactor at Osirak, Iraq, in 1981 and Syria’s nuclear facility under construction at Deir-ez-Zor in 2007.
And think about the many operations that Israel’s Defense Forces and intelligence agents have undertaken to foil, slow and disrupt Iran’s efforts to develop a nuclear weapons capability. A nuclear-armed Iran would threaten the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans in the region, all of Iran’s Arab neighbors, the world’s largest oil supplies and those who rely on that oil. It also would provide anti-U.S. terrorists with access to the most lethal Iranian technology and probably set off a nuclear arms race in the region.
For about 2 percent of what the U.S. spends in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan this year, Americans can take pride in the return on our investment in aid to Israel.
And whereas Debusmann focuses obsessively on US aid to Israel as an instrument of foreign policy, he omits any mention of the more than $50 billion in petrodollars the Wahhabi Saudis collect annually from American consumers.  $50 billion that goes, in part, to funding the militant Islamist movements and terrorist facilitation that appear on General Patraeus' list of national security threats and led to the deaths of 3,000 Americans on 9/11.  $50 billion that finances Arab largess to former government officials, academic chairs, and journalists who lobby, advocate, and generally carry water for the Arab states at the epicenter of those threats. 

All facts to consider while Debusmann is doing his "wishful thinking" about the US cutting off foreign assistance to Israel.

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