ISRAPUNDIT - August 13, 2004
WHY DO WE SUPPORT ISRAEL?
By Patrick D. O'Brien
The United States and Israel have many mutual political interests. Ethical and altruistic considerations aside, this is the primary impetus behind international alliances. I do love Israel, and I am proud that my nation is Israel's best friend, but I know that it's not for purely noble reasons. Geopolitical maneuvering and backroom deals are part and parcel of the international political landscape. However, so long as such practical matters of utility are necessary, I am very glad that such a fortuity has brought our two nations and peoples together. As an average citizen, I don't need to understand in great detail every facet of our complex relationship with Israel, but I've learned that the Jews of Israel have much in common with us culturally, politically, and economically. I consider them to be my brothers and sisters, and I can't imagine not having Israel as our friend. Sadly, not all Americans understand this special bond.
I've noticed over the years how many of Israel's most ardent critics here in the U.S. decry the amount of foreign aid that the United States gives to Israel (this year's estimate is about $2.7 billion, down from last year's $3.7 billion). It seems to be their favorite point of criticism because it is a hard, established number. One also notes how a lot of these same people are of the opinion that the "Palestinians" are engaged in a legitimate conflict against an aggressive occupying force, and so they take issue with the fact that much of the assistance provided to Israel from the U.S. is in the form of military aid (about 80% this year). I have heard on more than one occasion the mournful plaint, "I don't know about you, but I don't like knowing that my tax dollars are being used to fund the military of a country that kills children." Of course, the fact that Israel is only trying to protect its own children -- all too often from these same Arab children -- is wholly lost on these people. I won't comment right now on the implicit value judgments in such selective affinities.
Personally, I would support Israel no matter what. It's abundantly clear to me that it is only just to do so. Not all of my fellow citizens get that, though. So I'd like to make a more practical and compelling case for why the United States should and must support Israel.
To begin with we are both democratic states trying to maintain order and stability in a disorderly world which sometimes has all the stability of a drunkard on stilts. Interestingly, many of Israel's American detractors don't seem to consider just how little the United States gets in return for its aid to other states in the same region as Israel. Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, and the Palestinian Authority together receive U.S. aid comparable to that of Israel, which is in large part, to placate them. Egypt is basically paid not to attack Israel. If one looks into the matter at all, it becomes clear that Israel actually earns its U.S. foreign aid, and then some. The double standard employed by Israel's American critics in this matter is somewhat disturbing. This article is an appeal to my fellow Americans who do not understand why it is not only moral, but also imperative for the United States to do its part to ensure Israel's welfare, and indeed, survival.
Among the most important assets that Israel provides the U.S. with in return for financial assistance are:
-- invaluable intelligence information: The war on terror is a euphemistic title which really means "the war on Islamofascism." Israel is on the front lines of this war every day, and has been for some time now. Rabid antisemitism is more or less de rigueur in Arab/Muslim society, accounting for some of the hatred fueling the terror. Israel is also despised for bringing democracy, success, and the rule of law to an area which knows very little about such things. In the hate-polluted and culturally stagnant waters that are modern Arab/Muslim affairs, Israel has been the local target of choice for the irrational fury of Islamic terror. As a consequence, Israel has excelled at combating terror like no other nation on Earth.
A crucial part of neutralizing Islamic terror is having good, actionable intelligence. Useful and current data needs to be gathered and properly analyzed before it can be acted on. Since Arabic is one of Israel's official languages, Israeli agents are on the ball with electronic, on-the-ground, and print intelligence. They've got agents all over the Arab world. And since 9/11, U.S. intelligence agents and special operations soldiers have begun to pay especial attention to the Israeli playbook, because Israel knows better than anyone how to fight fourth generation warfare. We've participated in joint exercises with Israel in spheres of warfare that are somewhat alien to us, since we haven't had to deal with vicious criminals trying to blow up our kids every day. To be frank, we are pretty damn fortunate to have Israel's expertise to help guide us in these matters. Now more than ever, America needs this sort of tutelage and intelligence support. In my book, that's worth about a billion.
-- technological/economic gains: Not only does Israel easily rank among the world's elite in intelligence gathering and analysis, but its citizens are brilliant and highly educated. Beyond the cultural Jewish spirit for excellence, they have the incentive to succeed in unique ways economically because of Israel's scant natural resources. So, Israelis have tapped into their greatest and most reliable resource: themselves. In fifty-six short years, Israel has accomplished what many nations haven't been able to do in centuries. With a driving demand for survival and success against all odds, Israelis developed an energetic and ambitious entrepreneurial enthusiasm.
This attitude has helped to propel Israel to world leadership in the fields of medicine, scientific research (many disciplines), agriculture, telecommunications, high-tech electronics & software (the country's leading industrial sector), and more recently, the biotechnology industry. To quote industrialist Efi Arazi, "Israel now has a critical mass in high technology that is far ahead of anything in Europe." The United States is deeply involved in many of these enterprises and derives enormous benefits from Israel's unrivaled supremacy in many of these fields. And of course, many American businesses will be given preferential treatment in securing joint venture contracts for Israeli projects. Many Americans have no idea how many Israeli contributions are part of our life. The drug Copaxone, which gives hope to those suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, was developed by Israelis at the Weizmann Institute. ICQ instant messaging was invented by four young Israelis in their twenties, and bought by AOL. Israel's drip irrigation systems save between 40-50% of water usage, while giving a 300% return in crop increase. Israel's innovation and supreme industrial feats confer massive benefits to their economy and to America's. Another billion here, I'd say.
-- a democratic presence in the Middle East: I think it's pretty hard to put a price on this, especially when considering the totalitarian states in that area whose people hate America and the west. Having moved past its strategic role as America's democratic foothold in the Middle East against the "Red Menace" of Soviet Russia, Israel is now viewed by some to be our bulwark against the area's "Green Menace" of militant Islam. I don't personally believe that Islam will ever be an insuperable threat to western civilization. I optimistically like to think that we'll (all) eventually deal with it, if for no other reason than to save ourselves and our freedoms (not to mention the millions of Muslims who might not be averse to a departure from grinding misery, repression, and poverty). However, until the rest of the free world gets its tolerant and multicultural head out of la-la land, it's a good idea for both Israel and the United States to have a strong and defensible secular democracy in the region. The Middle East is hardly the most stable place in the world, and poses severe, if not long-term challenges to democracy. With the psychotic mulllahcracy of Iran, the oil-drunk Saudi terror sponsors, and various other erratic and violent regimes in its immediate neighborhood, Israel has some experience dealing with this sort of thing. We can only gain from this experience.
Below the strata of our governments, I see a mutual affinity among American and Israeli citizens with regard to shared values like: freedom of speech, the rule of law and due process in court, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, equality between sexes, and all of the other worthy advantages of democracy. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing if hateful Muslim Arabs look at Israel and its democratic principles with scorn and enmity. Israel is a reminder of what sort of governance truly works for its people, offering freedom and happiness. It's high time the Arab world got beyond its visceral rejection of innovation based upon a backward and anachronistic amalgam of religion, tribal values, entrenched statism and xenophobia. There are other considerations of security which make having a democratic ally in the Middle East an idea that behooves the United States. Cha-ching! -- there's another billion. Israel's U.S. foreign aid has now more than paid for itself. But wait, there's more.
-- peace through superior firepower: The cooperative military ventures between Israel and the United States are nothing short of spectacular. The strategic value derived from these joint projects is hard to measure, and the lives they save makes them priceless. The Arrow missile, as was shown recently, promises to be an indispensable replacement for the useful, yet not quite useful enough, Patriot missile system. From the Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL) and satellite technology, to Israel's state of the art Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) and down to more mundane military matters, the U.S. takes advantage of Israel's technological prowess and pioneering spirit. In today's world, military supremacy is of paramount importance for free nations, and the U.S. and Israel are a step ahead of everyone else. This is all the more important to the U.S. when we now have the same monsters hammering on our door as Israel's. Also, I'm sure there are also a few black book projects that we don't yet know about. Heck, that's got to be worth another billion, at least.
And when it comes to military might, Israel reigns supreme in the Middle East. The IDF has approximately 150,000 active duty strength troops and another estimated 500,000 regularly trained reservists which can be mobilized inside of 72 hours. This formidable fighting force is also equipped with the best available equipment, armaments, intelligence, and logistical support. And Israel's Air Force has a fleet second in size only to the United States.
After having had to defend Israel in five major wars, the IDF is among the world's most seasoned and battle-trained armed forces. With fresh hostilities each day, Israel's sons and daughters in the IDF are regularly tested and retested in battle. Israel is also in possession of (openly) secret nukes. In the unlikely event of America needing a "helping hand" in the region, isn't it good to know that Israel's first-rate military is on our side? They're numerous, well-trained, disciplined, armed to the teeth, and they're already there -- no deployment. It may well prove to be quite a godsend one day.
The value of the peace (and peace of mind), however tenuous, that all of these military factors buy for the United States, through a powerful deterrent to our enemies, and as a potential front line in a future American offensive in the area is truly incalculable. As arrogant and contentious as it may sound, there truly is something to be said for the accessiblity of peace through superior firepower.
I am obviously not an expert in geopolitics, economics, or foreign policy. I know a thing or two about these matters, though, because I think it's important to understand at least a minimum of what goes on in ones government, and what sort of relations ones country has with others. For practical and personal reasons, I've grown quite fond of Israel over the years, in great measure because I've discovered how tightly knit, on many levels, our relationship with them is. The bottom line here is that dollar for dollar, Israel gives back to the U.S. far more than other nations, especially Arab states, which receive more or comparable aid (and which consistently vote against us at the UN, by the way). I'm almost willing to describe Israel's role in our relationship as being on the United States' payroll; certainly not as a "puppet," but as a valued and crucial friend whose services are indispensable. Israel earns our foreign aid, whereas other countries take our money and give nothing back, or worse, actively work against us.
And anyone who thinks that Arabs hate us primarily because we support Israel is either ignorant or looking for another specious justification for slandering the U.S. and/or Israel. Or worse, they are seeking a way to excuse Islamic terror. If this is what you believe, you need to look into this matter more objectively, turn off your emotions, and rethink your position. The United States is the Great Shaitan and Israel is the Little Shaitan. And if you think that Europe is not hated by those who think that shari'ah is a good idea, all I can say is stay tuned, and perhaps prepare for dhimmitude. It makes sense for us to support Israel. It is in a nation's best interests to do what makes sense for its well-being, for its standing in the world, and for the security of its citizens.
Beyond all this, I just love Israel. The values of Israel's people are more consonant with American values than any other people I know of. I have no issue with the vast majority of my nation's values. I love it here, and I think that in the balance, we are a just nation, like Israel. I am grateful to live in a free and open society where what I do as an individual counts, if only a little a bit. Israelis seem to have a similar outlook, and I am truly glad to live in a nation that supports such people. Despite the material reasons for our alliance, at the end of the day, I am absolutely convinced that there is also pure, human worth in our unique mutual friendship.
I think it's also important to remember that Israel is trying to lead a modern, secular, democratic, existence in the middle of a region comprised mainly of hostile and combative totalitarian regimes. This means that Israel holds itself to standards that its enemies don't. I think many westerners are resentful of Israel's perceived transgressions against liberal democracy because they don't take into consideration just how much adversity Israel is up against. Israel is not in the midst of like-minded nations as European states are, and they are not the global powerhouse that the U.S. is. Such an attitude against Israel is, of course, hypocritical coming from Americans. And in some instances I regret to say that, yes, it certainly appears to be antisemitic.
The fact is that for Israel to lose just one battle against its pugnacious neighbors, is to lose all battles. That will be the end of the short story of the Jewish homeland's rebirth. When I need to explain to others, as I've done here, what's in it for us, then I have to face the fact that some people don't seem to care if the Jewish state is wiped off the map by the Arabs who seem to have all the patience in the world to make that happen. I find it unsettling, just sixty years after the Holocaust, that some of my countrymen have forgotten one of the principal reasons why Israel must be defended -- this is the only place in the whole world that every Jew can call home. This tiny strip of land that comprises about two percent of the Middle East is all that stands between the Jewish people and an ocean of Arabs/Muslims clamoring to spill their blood. This isn't hyperbole either; this is the reality for Jews in israel. For me, this is the best reason for the United States to support Israel -- because it's the right thing to do.
So, some of my fellow Americans are apparently uniformed or willfully ignorant in their one-sided criticism of Israel when it comes to this U.S. foreign aid red herring. They don't seem to object to Arab states which take the same American money that Israel gets, while giving back little outside of hatred and death. Some of my fellow Americans are blind. Just three years after deranged Arab/Muslim savages killed 3,000 of us on our own soil, they still don't seem to see how critical our alliance with Israel is. They wonder how we can afford to send so much foreign aid to our one true friend in all of the Middle East. I wonder how we could afford not to.