Last week a vote took place in the US Congress that should have our ministry of foreign affairs very worried.
The US House of Representatives on Wednesday narrowly passed its fiscal year 2022 State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Act, providing funding for America’s overseas interests for the upcoming year. The bill included $3.3 billion in foreign military financing grants to Israel as one of its key provisions as outlined in the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two countries. Another $0.5 billion annually was allocated to missile defense costs.
As a reminder, the security assistance provided to Israel is not a blank check delivered to Israel directly. Rather it funds military-related purchases by Israel’s ministry of defense, which then can pay for said materiel sold to it by American companies, whose costs are “offset” by this allocation. Therefore, the allocation actually adds $3.3 billion of exports to the US economy and supports a large number of jobs there as well. Most people seem to be totally unaware of how this is structured. Often one hears how much money the US gives to Israel which, of course, flies in the face of the facts and how this allocation must be used. In a word, to the advantage of US defense exporters.
There was a time prior to 2016 when 25% of the then $3 billion annual allocation could be spent on materiel supplied by Israeli companies in Israel. But the increased multi-year annual allocation provided by the Obama administration just before the end of 2016 posited that eventually all the money had to be spent in the US. Eventually is now. In order to continue the funding each year, Congress must annually approve the allocation covered by the MOU.
What is worrying is that the bill passed by a vote of 217-212 on partisan lines, opposed unanimously by Republicans. Three progressive Democrats also opposed the bill, including Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.). No surprises with those names as none of them are friends of ours. What should trouble our ministry of foreign affairs is that traditionally the issue has been non-partisan and this vote seems to indicate otherwise, at least on the surface where most people look.
The good news is that the bill was passed without conditions, which have in recent months been called for by progressive Democrats. However, AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee was a bit obtuse when they wrote in a press release issued after the vote: “This critical funding, with no added political conditions, reflects the strong bipartisan support for Israel’s security in Congress and the Biden administration.” Sadly, it was not bi-partisan as the entire Republican cohort in the Congress voted against it. Why? After all, everyone believes that there is “across the board” support for Israel among the Republicans.
While Republicans in Congress generally do support sending aid to Israel, a sticking point in the bill was the removal of the “Helms Amendment” for the first time in more than half a century. Remember that appropriations bills in Congress tend to have many items tacked on to them to address other issues not central to the core aspects of the bill. The amendment blocked US funds for women’s health services worldwide related to providing abortions, something many objected to. There were also other add-ons that seemed to rankle some Republican members of Congress.
J Street also celebrated news of the bill’s approval but saw parts of it differently, celebrating the assistance given to the Palestinians and funding for organizations working to promote multilateral diplomacy, in addition to the aid to Israel. “J Street continues to push for legislation to require stronger, more specific transparency measures and restrictions on the end uses of US-sourced military equipment, including equipment bought with US aid to Israel, to ensure that it cannot be diverted to support acts of creeping annexation or other violations of international law,” according to a press release issued by them.
What should worry those of us who live here is how the vote will be used by our enemies. While the Republicans in Congress explained why they voted against the bill, our enemies will not make that distinction. Rather, as time passes we can be sure that in the propaganda put out by the BDS movement, for example, we will see the vote being interpreted as how some of America’s strongest supporters of Israel (i.e. the Republicans) have turned against us. In this day and age where everything is condensed to a sound bite, we can be sure that no one will stop to inquire why the vote was slanted the way it was. It will simply be used as yet another knife in our backs by people who sit in wait for such fodder to feed their anti-Israel appetites.
Hopefully, our public relations people at the foreign affairs ministry will be astute enough to combat any negative effects of this concerning turn of events in Washington. We dare not be lulled into a false sense of security.