The United States and Israel signed a Memorandum of Understanding in August 2007 committing the U.S. to give Israel $30 billion in military aid over the next decade.
This is grant aid, given in cash at the start of each fiscal year. The only condition on how Israel spends this cash aid is a requirement that it use 74% to purchase U.S. military goods and services in the United States.
The first grant under this agreement was made in October 2008 for FY2009, in the amount of $2.55 billion.
To bring the total 10-year amount to $30 billion, amounts in future years will gradually increase until an annual level of $3.1 billion is reached in FY2013. This will continue through FY2018. Each year's grant must be appropriated by Congress.
Israel is by far the largest recipient in the world of U.S. foreign aid. Since 1949, the United States has provided Israel with $101 billion in total aid, of which $53 billion has been military aid.
Fallout from this aid package is harmful to U.S. interests.
In the midst of a severe financial crisis, incurring a long-term obligation of this magnitude, which benefits the military-industrial complex but does not benefit the American people, is irresponsible.
When Israel attacks Palestinians, as during the recent assault on Gaza, its instruments of destruction are U.S. fighter jets and attack helicopters, U.S. missiles, U.S.-made white phosphorus, U.S.-made Caterpillar bulldozers-all of which is clearly identifiable to television audiences throughout the Arab and Muslim world, where viewers receive a steady diet of news showing Palestinian civilians being killed by weapons made in America. It is from this vast population, which feels kinship with Palestinians and feels itself to be under assault from the United States, that terrorists such as Osama bin Laden are able to find recruits.
The U.S. Foreign Assistance Act stipulates that no aid may be provided to a country that engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights. Israel has been charged by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch with precisely such violations during the Gaza assault and in past attacks. It is also likely that Israel is violating the Arms Export Control Act, which stipulates that U.S. weapons must be used only for "internal security" and "legitimate self-defense."
This arms package undermines the mission of U.S. peace mediators such as George Mitchell, recently appointed by President Obama as envoy to the Middle East. If Israel can rest assured that it is guaranteed an annual arms package in the billions, it will have no incentive to heed Mitchell's mediation efforts, to make the territorial concessions necessary to reach a peace agreement, to stop building settlements and other infrastructure in the occupied Palestinian territories, or to stop its attacks on Palestinians. By committing itself to this arms package, the United States is undermining with one hand the very peace agreement it is trying to promote with the other hand. This aid eliminates any political leverage the U.S. might need to make demands of Israel for a just resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Furthermore, this massive infusion of money for Israel's military frees up other Israeli monies for the continuation of oppressive actions in the occupied Palestinian territories, such as expansion of Israeli settlements, construction of the Separation Wall, and other infrastructure that takes land and resources from Palestinians.
These distortions of U.S. national interests must stop.
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