Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The Cost of Israel to U.S. Taxpayers: California Earthquake and Aid to Israel; Disasters of Equal Magnitude?

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The Cost of Israel to U.S. Taxpayers: California Earthquake and Aid to Israel; Disasters of Equal Magnitude?

Article excerpt

The Cost of Israel to U.S. Taxpayers: California Earthquake and Aid to Israel; Disasters of Equal Magnitude?

Preliminary estimates of the cost of the Jan. 17, 1994 earthquake centered in the Los Angeles suburb of Northridge totaled $7 billion. The cost to U.S. taxpayers of aid to Israel in 1993 was $6.321 billion. That means that California's giant faultlines are even more disastrous for the people of the United States than the carrots and sticks used by Israel's giant U.S. lobby to persuade Congress to appropriate whatever annual amount Israel demands, right?

Wrong! California doesn't have a major earthquake every year. But Israel not only received $6.3 billion in fiscal year 1993, it has been promised the same amount two more times in fiscal years 1994 and 1995 by President Bill Clinton.

To prove his sincerity, when the Israeli government's 1994 loan guarantees had to be reduced by $437 million as a congressionally mandated penalty for spending that amount on illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza in 1993, Clinton instructed Secretary of State Warren Christopher and then-Secretary of Defense Les Aspin to find another $500 million to add to Israel's military and economic aid already scheduled for 1994.

The amount supposedly will offset costs for "redeployment" of Israeli armed forces from Gaza and Jericho when Palestine Liberation Army forces take over police duties in both places. Normally, the reduction of military occupation forces might be expected to reduce costs. But normal rules don't apply when elected officials, in the House, the Senate or the White House, are courting Israel's all-powerful lobby, which they believe can, literally, make or break a campaign.

Israel's annual $6.321 billion (see accompanying table) amounts to $721,573.33 per hour, 24 hours a day, or $17,317,808 a day, seven days a week, for 52 weeks a year. What that kind of money would buy, if it remained in the U.S. government's budget, is eye-popping.

For example, on his way to Geneva for a Jan. 16 meeting with Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad, U.S. President Bill Clinton stopped in newly independent Belarus. There he pledged $50 million in additional aid to help the government of Belarus carry out its pledge to surrender all 81 of the former Soviet SS-25 nuclear missiles remaining on its soil. That's the equivalent of just under three (2.89 days) days worth of aid to Israel to persuade one country to become a nuclear-free zone.

With two hours' worth of aid to Israel, America's president could also have saved the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the World Bank a great deal of time and trouble. They have had to pool resources to come up with the $1.5 million needed to rescue the priceless inventory of Russia's Vavilov Plant Industry Institute. It keeps a living seed collection of 380,000 gene types representing 2,500 species of food plants.

Lacking sufficient long-term refrigerated storage facilities until the Western institutions pledged help, the Vavilov Institute was forced to regrow its entire collection every three or four years to keep irreplaceable seeds from being lost to humanity. With the Soviet economic collapse, it no longer could afford to do this. Now, with the equivalent of two hours of U.S. aid to Israel, everything's going to be okay.

The Clinton administration almost stopped reinventing government this year when it found that to save $8 billion sought by the House Budget Committee, it would have to cut cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for retired federal workers. …

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