Published by The Freeman Center
The Maccabean Online
Political Analysis and Commentary
The Palestinians' declared readiness to forego US aid is all the more remarkable when compared to Israel's refusal to countenance the thought of foregoing or even cutting back the assistance it receives from the US. Whereas the Palestinian economy will collapse without US assistance, were Israel to forego the $3 billion in military assistance it receives every year from Washington, the move would have little impact on the economy.
Economic analyses of US military assistance have noted that several factors degrade the value of the aid. The US requires Israel to spend 75 percent of the assistance in the US. Israel's inability to open its purchases to competitive bidding in the world market has forced it to pay inflated prices for much of what it buys.
So too, by buying US weapons systems, Israel has harmed its own military industries which are blocked from selling or developing systems for the IDF.
Moreover, because the US has tied its aid to Egypt to its aid to Israel and justified its military aid to Jordan and Lebanon through its military assistance to Israel, by accepting the aid, Israel is enabling its neighbors to upgrade their military capabilities. Their upgraded military capabilities in turn force Israel to invest still more resources in its defense budget to maintain its qualitative edge against its US subsidized neighbors. With all the hidden costs the military assistance entails, it is reasonable to discount the actual value of the assistance by fifty percent. That is, the actual value of annual US military assistance is about $1.5 billion.
The direct military cost of the Second Lebanon War is estimated at $2.2 billion. The direct military cost of Operation Cast Lead is estimated at $1.4 billion. The actual costs of both wars to the Israeli economy were several times higher. Those who claim that Israel cannot manage without US military aid ignore the fact that neither of these wars had any discernable sustained impact on the economy.
The political cost Israel has paid for US military assistance has been astronomical. As a recent study of US military assistance by the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies demonstrated, the psychological impact of the US aid on Israeli and American leaders alike has had a disastrous impact on the relations between the two states. It has impaired their ability to understand the actual strategic rationale of their alliance. Israeli leaders have developed a subservient mentality towards the Americans and the Americans have forgotten that a strong Israel is the US's most valuable strategic asset in the region. The Palestinians' expressed willingness to forego their assistance from the US is no doubt a bluff. And Congress would do well to call their bluff and cancel US assistance to the PA.
Yet their behavior presents Israel with an important lesson about the fundamentals of diplomacy that appear lost on our leaders.
The Palestinians understand the rules of diplomacy far better than Israel does. Israel believes that diplomacy is about getting other governments to be nice to us. The Palestinians understand that diplomacy is a non-violent means of weakening your enemies and expanding your own power. They also understand that the starting point for any effective diplomatic strategy is a reality-based assessment of other governments' interests.
As the revolutions throughout the region show, in the real world the Arabs do not care about the Palestinians. Europeans and leftist Americans care about the Palestinians. European leaders need to support the Palestinians for domestic political reasons. US leaders support the Palestinians to maintain good relations with Europe and with the American Left.
Recognizing this, the likes of Abbas and Fayyad understand that no matter what they say or do the West will probably not abandon them. European leaders need them to continue carrying out their political war against Israel because that is what European voters demand. US leaders will continue to support the Palestinians because they follow Europe's lead.
On the other hand, given their newfound power, PA leaders have to bend over backwards to appease Hamas and Iran if they wish to survive.
Since they rightly assess that the West needs them more than they need the West, not only are the Palestinians unwilling to pay any price to maintain Western support. They are willing to initiate ugly confrontations with the US and humiliate Obama in order to win the approval of Hamas and Iran.
Facing this reality, Israel's best bet is to initiate a few confrontations of its own to demonstrate its strategic importance to the US and Europe. With the conflagrations raging in the Arab world essentially making its argument that a strong Israel is imperative for the West, Israel should be going on the offensive against the Palestinians and the international Left that supports them.
But instead, of pointing out the truth, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his colleagues maintain their posture as supplicants to Washington, making concession after concession in exchange for further abuse in the hopes of avoiding a confrontation. For instance, Netanyahu has defied his own party and broken his word to the public by maintaining an undeclared freeze on Jewish building in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. Since January 2010, Netanyahu has systematically denied Jews building permits in the area in the hopes of appeasing Obama.
And how has Obama repaid Israel for our government's willingness to deny Jews their civil rights? The Obama administration has branded all Jewish communities in post-1967 Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria as "illegitimate," and blamed Israel for the absence of peace in the region.
As our region is consumed by the flames of rebellion and revolution, the challenges and threats Israel faces multiply by the day. In these new and trying times, our leaders must shed their failed concepts of statecraft based on weakness and adopt new ones founded on strength. The PA is playing a bad hand wisely. We are playing a good hand foolishly.
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JWR contributor Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East Fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, DC and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post