State Dept. official gives speech on increased military aid to Israel

Recent US aid to Israel

Source: Jeremy M. Sharp, U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel (Washington DC: Congressional Research Service, 2009), 21.

In a speech (mirror) to the Brookings Saban Center for Middle East Policy, State Department official Andrew J. Shapiro openly bragged that “our security relationship with Israel is broader, deeper and more intense than ever before.” The main theme of the talk was the preservation of what is called Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME), which Shapiro described as one of the “primary responsibilities” of his position as Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs.

To support this assertion Shapiro cited the fact that $2.775 billion in foreign military financing (FMF) was requested for FY 2010, “the largest such request in U.S. history.” He further proclaimed that $3.0 billion would be requested in FY 2011. “These requests,” he explained, “fulfill the Administration’s commitment to implementing the 2007 memorandum of understanding with Israel to provide $30 billion in security assistance over 10 years.” Other various perks and advantages of US aid to Israel were listed.

Israel is the only country authorized to set aside one-quarter of its FMF funding for off-shore procurements. This exception provides a significant boost for Israel’s domestic defense industry, helps them to develop indigenous production capacity, and is one of many ways we demonstrate our commitment to meeting Israel’s unique security requirements. […] the United States supports Israel’s defense needs through both our government-to-government Foreign Military Sales program and Direct Commercial Sales, including releasing advanced products restricted to only the closest of allies and partners. In the past few years, we have notified Congress of a number of significant sales aimed at preserving Israel’s qualitative military edge, most notably the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The F-35’s advanced capabilities will prove a key contribution to upholding Israel’s QME for many years to come. Israel further benefits from a War Reserve Stockpile, which is maintained in Israel by U.S. European Command and used to boost Israeli defenses in case of a significant military emergency. And like many of our partners overseas, Israel is also able to access millions of dollars in free or discounted military equipment each year through the Department of Defense’s Excess Defense Articles program.

Examples such as these are often used by critics of US-Israeli relations to assert that the special treatment Israel receives is far too generous. In fact, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer’s The Israel Lobby has a section on economic and military aid to Israel that details many of the same bonuses that are approvingly mentioned in Shapiro’s speech. It is very likely that this talk was an attempt on the part of the Obama administration to shore up support from pro-Israel groups and to refute right-wing accusations of being anti-Israel.

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