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Netanyahu's Washington Visit: Arming Israel in the Wake of the Iran Deal

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 9/11/2015 Zeina Azzam

The irony of the nuclear deal with Iran, signed in July 2015 in Vienna, is that while it ensures Iran's nuclear program "will be exclusively peaceful," it also makes certain that Israel's arms race in the Middle East will reach new, heightened levels.
Soon after the deal was approved, the United States started to unveil its plans to offer additional military equipment for Israel, promising that Israel would continue to keep its qualitative military edge in the region. Some even characterized the new defense aid package for Israel as a "windfall."
U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter hosted Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon for two days at the end of October, for talks aimed at "advancing their countries' defense relationship." Carter pledged to continue support for Israel's Iron Dome (which intercepts short-range rockets), David's Sling (which intercepts medium- and long-range missiles, developed by an Israeli defense contractor and Raytheon), and Arrow air defense systems (another anti-ballistic missile system, in collaboration with Boeing). Washington will also make available to Tel Aviv seven F-35A stealth fighters (with more on the way) -- as a result of a manufacturing deal with Lockheed Martin and Pratt and Whitney -- which would make Israel the only U.S. ally in the Middle East possessing these formidable Joint Strike Fighter planes. Carter noted in his remarks at the Pentagon that the "Israeli air force will start receiving the aircraft next year and will be the only force in the region to be armed with a fifth-generation fighter."
The list goes on and includes V-22 Ospreys -- able to reach and strike Iran, and fly like aircraft but land like helicopters -- as well as a new squadron of F-15 jets that will be fitted with the latest Israeli weaponry. The F-15 is considered the "work horse" of the Israeli military machine.
Israel's current U.S. military aid package agreement, about $3 billion annually, will expire in 2017. Just a few days before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives in the United States next week and meets with President Obama on Monday, Israel has formally asked to increase this yearly total to $5 billion, for the next ten years. This vastly increased request is purportedly needed to "counter threats [Israel] says will arise as a result of the international agreement on Iran's nuclear program." Negotiations about a renewed agreement will take place between Israel and the White House, with Congress making the final appropriations.
All this makes one wonder how, on the one hand, Washington's plan to circumscribe the nuclear capability of Iran in order to further peace in the region, leads, and on the other hand, to arm the Israeli state even more massively than ever before. Such weaponry could potentially be used against Iran, should Israel feel a need in the future. More immediately, however, Israel's new arms package makes its military an even more dangerous killing machine against the defenseless Palestinian population in the occupied territories. Israel's military is responding fiercely to the current uprising in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza; the new and improved weapons will allow it to intensify its subjugation of the Palestinians. Washington would also be sending the message that Israel's modus operandi is appropriate and supported.
In addition to amplifying the proliferation of dangerous arms in the region, increased military aid to Israel would strengthen the military-industrial complex in the United States at the expense of taxpayer money. Companies like Raytheon and Lockheed Martin (as well as some Israeli companies) are the winners in such a deal, raking in billions of dollars in revenue. The American taxpayer foots the bill of foreign aid and is now looking at a possible $5 billion a year for the next ten years to Israel.
To get some context, it is instructive to look at the budgets of domestic programs. Funding for food assistance for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, for example, is budgeted as $6.62 billion for 2016. The Head Start program has a budget of $10.1 billion for the year. And this is not to mention Congress's budget deal, which the AARP stated does not provide a long-term solution for the funding challenges of the Social Security disability insurance trust fund.
Further, Washington's blind support for Israel is tested almost every day, most recently by Netanyahu's appointment of Ran Baratz to head Israel's public diplomacy. This is the man who had previously called President Obama anti-Semitic and characterized Secretary of State John Kerry's speeches as laughable. If Netanyahu is serious about "mending fences" with the United States, and further, asking for an unprecedented military aid package, why hasn't he canceled this appointment?
The American people need to think long and hard about the billions of dollars of military aid Israel receives from the United States each year. Increasing it not only means more support for Israel's oppressive occupation of Palestinians, but it also will leave us with a more dangerous Middle East. In addition, funding for domestic social programs will suffer even more. We must not let unquestioned backing of Israel obscure an enduring vision for peace in the region and for robust social programs in our own country.
Zeina Azzam is executive director of The Jerusalem Fund and its educational program, the Palestine Center. View expressed are her own and do not reflect those of the Fund.

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