Daniel Vanello’s piece on the Obama administration’s foreign policy in the Middle East threw up a point worthy of further discussion: why, given Netanyahu’s poor track record of seeking a settlement with the Palestinians, does the US continue to provide Israel with such copious quantities of military aid?
For Israel is undoubtedly the foremost military power in the region. She possesses the latest military technology – courtesy of our cousins across the pond – weapons that the rest of the region would do far more than kill to get their hands on. Her secret service, Mossad, an organisation world-renowned for its ruthlessness and efficacy, is employed regularly to remove threats to Israeli security on an ‘under the radar’ basis, thus negating the need to resort to more conventional methods of debilitating enemies. And of course, should the worst come to the worst, the Jewish-majority state is the only Middle Eastern country to possess nuclear weapons, an option that has been considered in the past – 1973 Yom Kippur War. Surely therefore, continued American military aid to Israel is not only unnecessary – she is more than capable of defending herself – but, given the current economic climate and popular world opinion being racked up against the ‘only democratic state in the Middle East’, concurrently politically inadvisable?
Ron Paul, the septuagenarian libertarian currently running for the Republican presidential nomination, has had his remarks on the matter turned into something of a political hailstorm. His opinion follows that of above: firstly, that US aid to Israel is illogical given the tremors rocking the American economy, and secondly, that Israel no longer needs the hardware that America is able to provide – Israel would profit far greater from intelligence sharing and a curtailment of arms sales to neighbouring states. So why exactly does this father/spoilt-daughter relationship continue?
The $3 billion worth of military aid provided annually to the Jewish-majority state was brought about following the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Our starting point, however, lies with the 6 Day War of 1967. The war (annihilation may be a more accurate description) saw Israel wrest control of the Sinai peninsula from Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser’s troops, proceeding to take up positions just east of the Suez Canal. Nasser thankfully/unfortunately (delete as appropriate) died in 1970 and was replaced by Anwar Sadat, an unassuming man that most – initially – had little time for. He was regarded as a toothless tiger: the military leadership were considered to be the main movers in the Egyptian establishment. However Sadat proved to be quite the strategist. Within two years of assuming power he had attempted to bring about some form of settlement with Israel, his objective being to regain control of the Sinai. Golda Meir (the feisty then Prime Minister of Israel) refused to partake in diplomacy with the Egyptian, her supposition being that no Arab leader could or should be trusted. Having had his overtures rejected, Sadat, along with his Syrian allies, invaded Israel in order to bring Meir to the negotiating table (the esteemed Ahron Bregman argues that Sadat had been encouraged by Henry Kissinger, the Machiavellian US National Security Advisor of the time, to initiate the war).
Whilst the 1973 war is quite possibly the most exciting and enthralling (and bloodiest) of all the Arab-Israeli sparring contests, I should probably get back on topic. Thus, to summarise ’73 in one sentence: initial Arab successes were countered by Israel, and following the implementation of a ceasefire the positions that had been initially held by both sides at the Suez Canal were retaken. The ’73 war was an Arab political victory and did much to shake the Israeli military command – they had been taken completely unaware. This provided the foundations for an initial peace settlement, for the Disengagement Treaties of 1974 were the start of the peace process, not the Camp David Accords of 1978 as is often asserted. The Disengagement Treaties mark the point at which American military aid to Israel was engaged. Should Israel arrive at a settlement with Egypt, and thus return control of the Sinai, she would be afforded the following:
1. $3 billion per annum of military aid;
2. an affirmation that no US peace plan would be put forth to international opinion without prior Israeli approval;
3. a promise that the United States would protect the Jewish-majority state against the USSR (having been threatened in the 1967 war), and;
4. a commitment that the US would ensure that the military aid supplied would maintain Israeli military superiority in the region.
Needless to say the deal was accepted and thus the peace process was born. 1974 marked the point at which America changed her tack when dealing with Israel: instead of trying to pressure the country into doing something she would rather not do, the US would shower her with gifts.
So, to conclude, next time you read about how stupid it is that America gives Israel so much money when it appears that Israel is doing nothing to warrant receiving such generous donations, remember that without such American overtures the Middle East would most probably be a far more unstable region that it is today. Of course, I might be completely wrong, maybe the peace process is a bad thing?