Against the backdrop of a front-page Saturday New York Times story which claims “an unusually sharp rupture between a sitting American president and the most potent pro-Israel lobbying group,” Senator Rand Paul’s comments on the other side of the political aisle during theFox News debate calling for an end to foreign aid to Israel has been largely overlooked by the media.
While all GOP candidates agree on the key issue of denying Iran nuclear arms, surprisingly, ending U.S. foreign aid to Israel is a proposal many on the Israeli political right support.
Paul noted – as he has previously – that America should not be borrowing money from countries such as China so that it can send money to Israel. He added, “What I will say and I will say over and over again, we cannot give away money we don’t have.” Paul rightfully acknowledges that Israel is “a great ally.”
While aid is often seized upon by Israel critics as a means through which to criticize Israel, or to imply that Israel is a “vassal state” of the U.S., the reality is that American aid to Israel represents approximately 1.2 percent of Israel’s total budget. And amongst these funds, large chunks of the funds must be spent in the United States on the acquisition of American defense equipment, services, and training.
Pro-Israel policy analyst Elliott Abrams, who served as a deputy national security adviser to President George W. Bush said, “My view is over time it would be healthy for the relationship if the aid diminished. Israel should be less dependent on American financial assistance and should become the kind of ally that we have in Australia, Canada, or the United Kingdom: an intimate military relationship and alliance, but no military aid.”
A cabinet member of the Israeli government, Naftali Bennett, the leader of the right-wing Jewish home party has said “Today, U.S. military aid is roughly 1 percent of Israel’s economy. I think, generally, we need to free ourselves from it. We have to do it responsibly, since I’m not aware of all the aspects of the budget. I don’t want to say, ‘Let’s just give it up,’ but our situation today is very different from what it was 20 and 30 years ago.”
Michael Oren, who served as Israel’s ambassador to Washington until 2013, and is exceeding popular among many American Jews, has said that aid to Israel “has a meaning that exceeds its dollar amount. Because Israel does not have a defense treaty with the United States, the aid is a message to the region about the nature of the U.S.-Israel alliance.”
America and Israel have shared values and should stand together – but the time is ripe to examine if ending aid may benefit both nations. The Arab world receives more than three times the amount of foreign aid from America that Israel does. Perhaps if America stopped the foreign aid to the Arabs, Israel would not need their own.
In Israel, America has a loyal ally in a region which has vast strategic importance. From intelligence gathering to democracy, Israel’s values resonate for America in a Middle East dominated by countries with a historic opposition to Christian-Judeo values. Israel remains the only country in the Middle East where American flags are not burnt.
All countries act in their own self interest, and as Prime Minister Netanyahu has made clear in the face of the Iranian threat, Israel will do the same. With or without foreign aid, all nations must do what is best for them. It is also true that with or without foreign aid, any of the Republican candidates for president would be better for Israel than Hillary Clinton.
Ronn Torossian is an entrepreneur, and author of For Immediate Release, a best selling public relations book.