U.S. Security Assistance to Israel-

Article excerpt

Key Points

* With influence comes responsibility. The U.S. should not undermine the peace process it has helped design by arming Israel in preparation for further conflict.

* Increases in U.S. military assistance are based on the unreasonable claim that Israel grows less secure with each peace treaty it signs.

* The U.S. should adjust its approach to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by seeking innovative ways of addressing the causes of conflict.

The violence of the past eight months between Israelis and Palestinians has left 500 people dead, torpedoed the peace process, and turned the streets of the West Bank and Gaza Strip into battlefields. As the U.S. reconsiders its role in promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace, the prospects for a final settlement--described last year as better than ever--seem worse than ever. In reference to the ambitious approach taken by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, the Bush administration has emphasized "assistance" over "insistence." Unfortunately, rather than focusing on addressing the issues that have derailed the peace process, American assistance is emerging as a disjointed policy that urges a peaceful resolution to the conflict while boosting military aid to Israel.

The increases in military aid grow out of a central pillar of U.S. policy in the Middle East: strengthening America's "strategic cooperation" with Israel. This cooperation currently centers around two categories of U.S. military-related assistance to Israel, Economic Support Funds (ESF) and Foreign Military Financing (FMF). The larger of these two, FMF, is intended to help Israel finance its acquisition of U.S. military equipment, services, and training and will total $1.98 billion in 2001. FMF is scheduled to increase by $60 million each year as part of an ongoing plan to phase out ESF support by 2008. If Israel would conclude peace agreements with Syria and the Palestinians, this increased FMF support combined with U.S. pledges to satisfy Israel's stated financial requirements for withdrawing from the Golan Heights, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip will total more than $50 billion in U.S. military aid by 2008.

Already the strongest military power in the region and the recipient of 40% of U.S. foreign aid, Israel does not need additional military assistance. It has one of the most sophisticated, well-equipped, and best-trained armies in the world, and its armed forces are growing faster than that of its neighbors, whose military expenditures decreased during the 1990s. Israel's annual military expenditures are consistently two to three times as high as those of other countries involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict, and Israel leads the region in the number of heavy weapons holdings, armored infantry vehicles, airplanes, and heavy tanks. …