Sullivan calls for Israel aid cut; ain’t gonna happen

Over at the Atlantic, influential blogger Andrew Sullivan yesterday called for an end to U.S. aid to Israel after the collapse of Obama administration efforts to win a 90 day settlement freeze extension in return for a rich package of incentives.

“I favor an end to aid for Israel because a) Israel doesn’t need it and b) we need the money and c) it doesn’t seem sensible to me to keep rewarding an ally that refuses to offer minimal cooperation,” he wrote.

Israel’s strongest critics are crowing – but it’s not going to happen.

Where or not Israel really needs the aid is debatable; the fact we could use the money we give them is factually true, but $3 billion looks like chump change in a week when the administration agreed to extend tax cuts that will cost the treasure some $900 billion, according to some estimates.

Where or not Israel is an “ally that refuses to offer minimal cooperation” is hard to gauge. I mean, it’s not exactly like the Palestinians have been cooperative in the Obama administration’s push for new talks, either. It’s not as if Obama administration policy in the region has made a lot of sense.

But in the end, it comes down to pure politics, which is why I’d be astonished if there’s any real discussion about cutting, conditioning or killing Israel aid.

Congressional Republicans may hate foreign aid, but only a tiny number would favor cutting Israel’s aid, the biggest chunk of the program.

There may be a few more Democrats who’d agree to a cut, but they are still a tiny minority, and the Democratic caucus leadership, with a nervous eye on 2012, would pull out all the stops to make sure that minority didn’t get anywhere.

The last thing a battered, beleaguered President Obama wants is all-out war with the powerful pro-Israel lobby as he gears up his 2012 reelection campaign – which is what he’d get if he suggested cutting aid. Nor does he want more tsuris with a Democratic faction in Congress that’s mighty unhappy with his compromise on Bush-era tax cuts.

Things might be different if the administration saw any real prospects of moving the peace process forward.  But I can’t imagine they do, so why pick a politically costly fight?

It’s significant that Sullivan raised the issue, but in realpolitik terms it’s probably irrelevant.


About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.