The president of a synagogue I used to serve and attend once taught me an important rule: Don’t buy your own baloney. It seems that many in the pro-Israel community have begun to buy our own baloney and think of Israel as more powerful than it actually is. Although our accomplishments in the field of high-tech, medicine and military innovation far surpass the expectations of a nation as small as Israel, Israel has not developed independence of foreign aid. It is an undeniable fact that Israel is dependent on aid from the United States. It is also undeniable that it would take Israel decades to become self-reliant.
Recently writers such as Eli Lake, Caroline Glick, and just this week Jeff Jacoby, have written opinion pieces urging a halt to American aid to Israel. They argue that, in the 1990s, Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stopped accepting economic aid from America. If Israel did it once, it can do it again — but this time with military aid. With Israeli ingenuity, Israel can accomplish anything. Quoting Herzl, they revive the Zionist mantra, “If we will it, it will be no dream.”
With little explanation, they assume that Israel can develop her own fighter planes, smart bombs and missile defense systems just as great if not better than those it receives from America. Not only will Israel have better weapons, but it can avoid the restrictions that force her to spend over $2 billion of what America gives in America. They paint a wonderful picture, but it is fantasy.
Stopping American aid would be detrimental to Israel’s safety and security. Israel flies American fighter jets. These jets require spare parts that only the United States supplies. It would take years, if not decades, to produce an Israeli fighter jet as advanced as the American F-15, F-16 or F-35. Without American aid Israel’s air force would be grounded. The development of a new jet to replace American jets would costs billions of dollars, money Israel doesn’t have in its budget.
If there was anyone who would take the lead to stop accepting American aid it would be the designer of the halt of American economic aid, our current prime minister. We have yet to hear the prime minister mention independence from America aid. In fact Prime Minister Netanyahu constantly thinks the United States for its aid and partnership.
Even if Israel could stop accepting American aid it wouldn’t be in Israel’s best interests. While America places restrictions on Israel in return for its aid, requiring Israel to purchase its weapons from America and being pressured by America on settlement growth and hostage releases, just to name a few, there are benefits that come with American aid to Israel. With its aid to Israel, America has a vested interest in Israel’s success, which leads to Israel’s American supplied weapons having a qualitative military edge over any weapon provided to its enemies and most importantly, diplomatic cover in the United Nations. If Israel was to decline American aid, America might find it easier to create distance between it and Israel at the United Nations.
There is another angle to the halt American aid to Israel argument — it’s better for America not to give aid to Israel. America is running a budget deficit and can no longer afford foreign aid. This is a foolish argument; American foreign aid makes up less than 1% of America’s total budget. Stopping foreign aid would do nothing to help America’s budget deficit. In addition, any financial gains would be offset by America’s loss of influence that its current aid guarantees in foreign markets. Foreign aid is one of America’s greatest tools in ensuring American influence throughout the world.
It is time that we stopped buying our own baloney. Gaining independence is a laudable goal, but it is far off. As an American Israeli, I am especially appreciative of American aid to Israel. I am grateful to the American Congress, President Obama, and my fellow Americans for the essential aid that America provides Israel. I look forward to a new memorandum of understanding being signed between America and Israel and I know it will help ensure Israel’s safety and American interests around the world.