By Avigdor Eskin,
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu gave an impressive speech in New York at the UN General Assembly. He presented a poster about Iranian nuclear program, and this was covered by all the world’s top media. His statements about Iran threatening to destroy Israel sounded convincing. The success however was only a partial success as unlike the previous years, Netanyahu has not received an audience with the US President. This may be seen as a sign of crisis in Israeli-US relations.
Obama’s refusal to meet Netanyahu is contrary to the existing long-standing tradition and embodies a crisis in relations between the two countries. Former Israeli Justice Minister Meir Shitrit said the other day that the Israeli relations with the United States have reached the lowest level in history. And former Israeli representative at UN, industrialist Dani Gilerman said that the Obama administration is spending a lot more force to prevent an Israeli attack on Iran than to suspend the Iranian nuclear program.
A similar assessment of the situation appeared in a recent editorial of the leading liberal newspaper “Haaretz”, criticizing the Israeli prime minister for being too tough vis-a-vis the American administration. Significantly, the same position was taken by the “New York Times” and “Washington Post”.
Public dispute with the Obama administration divided the Israeli establishment into the liberal and pro-American wing, led by President Shimon Peres, and the “activist” majority, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Prime Minister calls on Washington to declare a “red line” on Iran. He believes that this is the time to put an ultimatum on Teheran after which a military strike would come.
President Obama and his associates believe that such a declaration will be an unreasonable obstacle to a diplomatic solution to the crisis. Some of his campaign activists accused Netanyahu that his rhetoric plays into the hands of contention presidential candidate for the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney. Thus some tactical differences on Iran again carried on the agenda of the very essence of the Israeli-American relations.
It is said that when any new Prime Minister of Israel enters an office he is told about the real potential of the Israeli military, and then – on the relations with the U.S.. After that he has to maneuver between the real interests of Israel and the unwillingness to cause disruption in the relationship with the U.S..
Some people believe that Israel was born again in 1948 with the support of the U.S. In fact, the position of the U.S. State Department in 1947, was negative with respect to the formation of the Jewish state. Public pressure forced President Roosevelt to vote for the resolution in support of Israel, but in parallel, Washington imposed an embargo on arms shipments to the Middle East. A powerful and indispensable support Israel just had from the Soviet Union. It was not only diplomatic support. Czech town of Brno was ferrying point for weapons that Moscow supplied the Jewish fighters for independence in 1948.
Soviet-Israeli relations were strongly cooled still during the life of Stalin, but, nevertheless, Israel kept a distance from Washington for two decades. Serious strategic rapprochement with the United States began in 1967, after the war and the first “gift” from Washington in the form of non-repayable aid to Israel was in 1974. Only after four victorious wars, and the severance of diplomatic relations with Moscow in 1967 in Washington have concluded that Israel can play a unique role in the containment of Soviet influence in the Middle East.
In contrast to the Soviet “fraternal” aid to Arabs and developing African country, which culminated two hundred and fifty billion dollars in losses, the Americans cleverly invested every dollar. The aid to Israel grew up and eventually reached three billion dollars a year. But in reality it was not a help, but a very profitable business. Head of the U.S. air force intelligence General George Keegan said at the time that Israel has saved America from 1967 to 1980, $ 40 billion.
In order to understand the current situation of the annual aid we must take these three billion dollars and transfer them into real money. Israel’s leading economist, Professor Ezra Zohar paints in his book “The Concubine in the Middle East ” the distribution of this amount. About a billion dollars a year is automatically returned to the U.S. in the form of debt repayment and interest payments on old loans. (Interestingly, the Americans wrote off all the old debts to Egypt …)
Next should consider the fact that Israel does not receive from the Americans discounts when purchasing their weapons, unlike Saudi Arabia, for example. We also must be add to this the costs of the broken by the American sales transactions of Israeli weapons to third countries, such as in case of India and China, who had intended to procure intelligence system “Falcon.”
But this is not all. Israel pays for U.S. military and political support with territorial concessions, the real value of which is not to estimate with money. For example, the gift to Egypt for breaking with the Soviet Union, Washington persuaded Israel to return the entire Sinai Peninsula, with its oil fields in the late seventies.
The factor of U.S. military and civilian assistance loses its specific weight also due to the fact that Israel is one of the largest manufacturers and exporters of arms in the world. There were years when Israel even overtook Russia, being the second in the world arms seller after the United States. Now Israel is between the third and sixth place.
As for the real balance in the relationship between Israel and the U.S., we will never be able to define it in the exact figures. Washington helps Jerusalem with its veto in the Security Council when the agenda of anti-Israel resolutions is on duty. The two countries have joint projects for the production of weapons that benefit Israel as well, of course. In most cases, Israel is also entitled to purchase the most advanced of the first American weapons.
On the other side, however, is the destabilizing role of U.S. political projects urging a further Israeli withdrawal from the territories under its control. (Today’s Israel with the territories attached in 1967 is 27 thousand square meters and without them – 21 000 …) The Israeli experience of retreats is very sad, because it had never brought a peace, but rather a sword and a bloody wave of terror.
Interestingly, all the major Israeli strategic success comes on the actions uncoordinated with Americans. The most striking examples of this were the operations to eliminate nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981 and in Syria – in 2007. In the first case, Washington imposed sanctions and suspended some arms supplies. In 2007, it did not come to sanctions, but the George Bush the junior and Condoleezza Rice have done much to convince Prime Minister Olmert that he must act only through diplomatic channels. They also insisted that the Israelis can not cope with the task. And then the nuclear reactor in Syria had disappeared…
Although the current public disagreement between Israel and the U.S. administration concerned first and foremost Iran, the reasons for the crisis is much deeper. Washington’s rate of Muslim Brothers in Egypt, Syria and other countries in the region is against the interests of Israel in the strongest terms.
The American claims that Israel is not in a position to deal with Iran without them is not only arrogant but also incorrect. So, recently the London “Sunday Times” published an article about the possibility of Israeli strike on Iran’s infrastructure with electromagnetic blow. The headline stated: “Israel could send Iran ‘back to the stone age’ with electromagnetic bomb”.
Despite all the differences, we do not witness a complete break between Israel and the U.S. Rather, it will bring a breath of fresh air to the reconsideration of the relations and the reformatting of American aid. So far, the game is tough. Its results will depend to a large extent on the outcome of the U.S. presidential elections.