The United States has just promised Israel $38 billion in military assistance over the coming decade — the largest such aid package ever allocated by the US to any ally, anywhere. And all we can do is moan about it.
Don’t get me wrong. We’re worth every cent.
We’re on the front line of the struggle against Islamic extremism. Our intelligence gathering hierarchy is extraordinarily effective, and the information we share with the United States plays a significant role in the US’s ability to protect itself — to defend against real-time dangers and to gear up to tackle looming threats. Our capacity for innovation keeps American and Israeli military technology on the cutting edge. Geo-strategically, we are America’s only iron-clad, guaranteed ally in this brutal and unpredictable region — the only democracy in this part of the world. We have shown, time and again, that we will risk our lives, and all too often lose them, to protect our well-being and the values we share with the United States, but we emphatically do not expect the US to risk American lives in our defense. We say to America: Help ensure that we can maintain our military advantage over those, notably including Iran, who loathe and seek to harm us and the United States, directly and via proxy militias and terror groups, and we will face them down. The newly signed aid package is designed to ensure we are able to continue doing just that.
Israel, doubtless after a great deal of consideration and after many months of negotiation, opted not hold out for the possibility of more
And yet both before the deal was signed at the State Department last Wednesday, and especially since that ceremony, the message from Jerusalem has been one of public ingratitude. Most of the complaining, it’s true, has not been directed at the Obama administration. Led by former prime minister Ehud Barak, it has, rather, been a case of utilizing the deal to score political points against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Barak (“believe me, I know what I’m talking about”) has been writing op-eds and giving interviews declaring that Israel could have secured billions more if only Netanyahu had handled the negotiations better — and specifically if Netanyahu had eschewed his anti-Obama lobbying speech in Congress in March 2015 against the Iran nuclear deal. Others, including disgruntled ex-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, and the Zionist Union’s failed candidate for defense minister Amos Yadlin, have also weighed in to say, albeit more politely, that the package is inadequate.
Strikingly, the current defense minister, Avigdor Liberman, has not said anything at all. His ministry has just been given $38 billion, and yet Liberman’s hierarchy cannot bring itself to express even perfunctory gratitude. On second thought, since his ministry’s most recent resonant venture into statement-issuing was to compare the Iran deal to the Allies’ 1938 Munich Agreement with the Nazis, essentially accusing the Obama administration of selling us out to our would-be destroyers, perhaps the less said by the Liberman Defense Ministry, the better.
Now, maybe Israel could have gotten a better deal, and maybe it really does need more US military assistance than will be forthcoming. (Extra funds can be sought, it should be noted, in times of conflict.) Maybe the P5+1’s effort to thwart Iran’s rogue nuclear program is so weak, hole-filled and dangerous that Israel’s defense challenges have indeed grown dramatically, or will do soon.
Maybe, had there been better personal relations between Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama, rather than the endless public arguing over Iran and over the settlement enterprise, some of those other billions that Barak insists could have been ours would indeed have been included.
Maybe Netanyahu could have negotiated some of the key clauses more effectively, rather than, say, agreeing to the condition that will gradually require Israel to spend all of that military aid inside the United States, rather than allowing a substantial proportion to be spent in Israel as has been the case to date. And maybe he need not have accepted the provision that will prevent Congress from securing or seeking to secure additional funding.
But the bottom line is that Israel, not notably naive under Netanyahu’s leadership, chose to agree to this deal. Israel, doubtless after a great deal of consideration and after many months of negotiation, opted not to hold out for the possibility of more, evidently concluding that the risk of better terms under a different president somewhere down the line was outweighed by the danger of worse ones. Nobody put a US-funded gun to our head.
So now, whatever the reservations and the regrets and the recriminations and the rivalries, what Israel should be saying most loudly and publicly now is a simple, courteous, and heartfelt, thank you.