Sunday, October 21, 2007

Questions for The Republican Jewish Coalition

Questions for the Republican Jewish Coalition

Recently, there was a large hoopla in the libertarian areas of the political Internet about the Republican Jewish Coalition. The Coalition – so did the Internet have it – refused to receive Ron Paul at their “Victory 2008 Republican Jewish Coalition Candidates Forum”. According to a variety of sources, Ron Paul was not allowed to get on the forums because he was 'not seen as a top tier contender' and 'opposed aid to Israel'. Given that the Internet is plagued with the kind of folks that'll blame 'the Israeli lobby' for global warming if you let them loose, I was doubtful.

But given that the editors of http://capitalism.co.il are very interested in the Ron Paul Revolution, I went out and called the RJC myself to verify. RJC's very kind press secretary (whose surname I was, unfortunately, not able to write down) confirmed to me that this was indeed true: Ron Paul was not invited because he was considered a 'long-shot candidate' and because he 'votes against aid to Israel' and 'criticizes the Israeli lobby'.

I will not discuss the first of these statements – the RJC has invited Huckabee, who polls consistently behind Ron Paul in both straw polls and scientific Gallup and Harris polls, and then refused to replace him with Ron Paul when Huckabee refused to arrive at the Candidates Forum. It is clear to me that the main reason for Ron Paul not being invited is the difference in policy between him and the RJC.

Is Ron Paul an enemy of Israel? He clearly isn't. He supported Israel's action against the Osirak reactor when practically everybody – including the Reagan Administration – condemned Israel. He has steadfastly refused to support congressional condemnation of Israel, or military aid to nations like Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

What seems to be the core of the argument? The military aid to Israel. The 2.25 billion dollars per year of funding that Israel receives. For those not in the know, this aid comes in the form of funds that must be spent on American equipment and services – essentially a subsidy for U.S. companies. As such, it is a subsidy program for both Israel's government and the United States' military-industrial complex.

And yet, is this program necessary for Israel's survival, or even beneficial for its well-being? Certainly not according to the Jerusalem Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, who state outright: “Foreign aid is the greatest obstacle to economic freedom in Israel.” Certainly not according to Binyamin Netanyahu, who, during his tenure as Prime Minister, hinted quite broadly that Israel would be better off without foreign aid.

Foreign aid does not only destroy Israel's indigenous military industries – even now, production of army shoes, Tavor assault rifles, and other items have been shifted in part or in whole across the Atlantic to qualify for the American funds – but it has a more insidious effect. It acts as a crutch for a military bureacracy that is huge, inept, and corrupt.

Not unlike Third World officials who feel they don't need to modernize their economy because the West will keep pumping in aid and money, Israeli Ministry of Defense officials believe that no matter how bad their own screw-ups are, they are safe – as long as they can fall back on American money and weapons.

As a result, the Israeli MoD is capable of immense amounts of waste – wasting, in fact, more Israeli taxpayer money then it receives in aid from America. When I spoke to Knesset Member Yossi Beilin, he told me that the Knesset members are not even allowed to read most of the military budget before passing it. This allows for truly unprecedented amounts of waste.[2]

There is no place here to speak about army units deploying more vehicles then they have personnel[1], army units purchasing brand new armored personnel carriers and allowing them to rust away on the lawn unused until they are beyond repair. Let us just mention that an IDF officer retiring at the rank of major 33 receives $100,000 in benefits, that the amount of generals in the Israeli army rises 80% every ten years. Israel still practices the draft, which recruits thousands of soldiers the country doesn't need for any sensible military use. Ehud Barak, the Minister of Defense, claims 75% of the nation's non-combat soldiers serve no national defense purpose. The hidden economical costs are estimated to be $15,000 per draftee.

And here's the punchline: the budget for the civilian MoD bureaucracy (not the army) comes up to half the sum of US aid to Israel on its own (4-5 billion NIS). Further, according to the Ministry of Defense, only 20% of the military budget funds actual fighting and combat support units. 80% is the cost of bureacracy and rear-echelon units. That comes out to over ten billion dollars – over FOUR TIMES the size of US aid to Israel.

I would understand support for this sort of 'aid' among the American Democrats – they are known to believe that throwing money at problems solves them. But those are Republicans we're talking about here. And thus I have a few questions for any RJC members who happen to be reading this:

You people are smart enough to realize that welfare to African countries doesn't help them develop. Why do you think welfare to Israel is going to have any different effect? You people are smart enough to oppose subsidies for an abortion clinic in Omaha or a farm in Texas. Why are you willing to throw America's money at a government institution thousands of miles away? Why do you insist throwing money at people who let billions of dollars of their own money go to waste pointlessly? Maybe, just maybe, if Israel was deprived of the American government teat, it would use it's own taxpayer money with more efficiency.

Most importantly, why are you so quick to assume that a person who opposes this welfare program is not a candidate whose opinions bears listening to, if not on this one issue, then on others? Does disagreement on this one point make a candidate unlegitimate to you, even though he agrees with the Republican Jewish Coalition on so many others?

Boris Karpa is a libertarian columnist and professional translator in Ashdod, Israel.
He can be contacted at microbalrog@gmail.com


[1]”Ma'ariv”, 27.10.03.
[2]According to the 2004 Annual Report by Israel's Inspector-General, while the Knesset budgeted 46.8 billion shekels to the IDF, de-facto 58.5 billion shekels were transferred. The difference is over 3 billion dollars wasted, or a sum greater then the entire US aid to Israel.

8 Comments:

Blogger cowbot said...

Great piece. Just want to add emphasis to a few points here:

1) As far as I can tell, the U.S. Constitution (in the original intent, common-sense constructive interpretation) does not authorize spending US-taxpayer money on other countries.

2) If implemented, Ron Paul's policy would cut off US-welfare for Egypt, Turkey and the Palestinians as well. As you rightly point out, most of this aid is an indirect subsidy to the US military-industrial complex.

3) From my reading of history, the earliest instance of US 'foreign aid' was in the form of extorted payments to the Barbary pirates (by one account up to 10% of the anuall federal budget of the time)

4) Unconditional support of Israel has fomented hatred of the USA abroad, and distrust of Jewish organizations domestically.

6) The middle-eastern chessboard is completely different from 1967. Israel's two-generation technological lead and second-strike nuclear deterrent provide ample assurance of legitimate national security (not securing any and all 'national interests').

7) US Aid serves the aspirations of the hard line parties to increase tensions and radicalize the muslim world. A radicalized but impotent enemy provides more excuses for aggression against neighboring countries and expansionist territorial claims.

I applaud this author for advocating a US policy that will serve to reduce tensions and yield better long-term prospects for peace and security - for both the USA and Israel.

It is our duty to advocate policies that will promote peace and prosperity, and the libertarian philosophy provides the most solid foundations for this.

2:46 AM  
Blogger Albert said...

I wish you could make an appearance on the Ron Paul campaign. Why don't you make a video of this commentary and post it on You Tube. You will reach untold thousands. Please consider it.

6:43 PM  
Blogger Renee said...

Thank you for this fact-filled, compassionate piece about the problems with foreign aide.

11:23 PM  
Blogger hardyboy said...

Yikes! We give that much money to Israel? I'm going to pass-out. Nothing against Israel, but those guys need to start fending for themselves. Why the hell are my tax dollars paying for the salary of some Israeli (military) bureaucrat? Dear God (or G-d, if your prefer) we need Dr. Paul in office.

5:30 AM  
Blogger manowar said...

I agree with Albert. Make a YouTube vid, or have someone do it for you. This other side of the story needs to be heard by everyone everywhere, including the multitudes of evangelical Christians, whose consciences shut down at anything resembling lack of support for Israel. Your insights would go a long way toward tearing down walls of paranoia in the Jewish community too. Please... get it out there.

1:18 AM  
Blogger Allanea said...

Manowar, I agree wholeheartedly - I just suck at Youtube.

3:23 PM  
Blogger rocketmorton said...

Perhaps someone else could check my math, but how much are we talking about here? If my math is correct, we're talking about less than 3 cents/day per person.... closer to 2.5 cents a day. I know, I know, it's the principle not the amount. And I agree "in principle". But if it is the principle, then we should not be wasting our limited time with this penny-ante business, and instead focus on amounts of cash that actually add up to something.

We hear over and over about the aid to Israel, but how often do we read about the cost to American taxpayers for subsidizing South Korean's "protection" to the tune of about $3 Billion a year, according to New York Times, Jan 8, 2003. And what of the defense of Japan and the rest of East Asia (excluding South Korea)? About another $40 Billion. Which brings us to the defense of Western Europe – aka our more-than-60-year NATO commitment. That runs to about roughly $80 Billion a year.

Now, none of the above is to argue that the above money is wasted, or that we derive no benefits from carrying the defense burden of so much of the developed world. Maybe we do, and maybe we don’t. But these are gigantic costs that truly dwarf what we spend on aid to Israel. About these costs, and the benefits or lack thereof to the “interests” of the United States, the silence is truly deafening.

4:50 AM  
Blogger Allanea said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly, and so does Ron Paul.

But this post wasn't about foreign aid in general.

Ron wasn't denied access to the RJC event due to his position on NATO, but due to the position on ISrael.

11:43 AM  

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