'This aid is not in our favor, not economically, not militarily, not in any way'

Likud MK Feiglin: It’s immoral for Israel to take US aid

In curious interview with little-known US magazine, hardline legislator also suggests America might not survive its current financial woes

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Moshe Feiglin (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
Moshe Feiglin (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

Israel should not accept US foreign aid because it is immoral and allows Washington to exert political pressure on Jerusalem, a lawmaker from the Knesset’s ruling party said in an interview with an American magazine published Monday.

Deputy Knesset Speaker Moshe Feiglin (Likud) also seemed to suggest that the US was doomed to fall due to its economic woes, but that Israel’s survival was guaranteed because the country “carries moral weight.”

“I’m totally against this [US foreign] aid [to Israel],” Feiglin told The New American, a relatively unknown publication affiliated with far-right American politics. “It cannot be when, first of all, the Americans are standing in line like two or three miles in the snow to get a job. To get any kind of aid from America when, economically, we are in a much, much better position doesn’t look moral to me.”

Furthermore, American aid “is not in our favor, not economically, not militarily, not in any way,” the MK told the magazine’s Alex Newman. (He gave the interview last month in the Knesset, but it only appeared on Monday.) “This aid serves psychological purposes, not anything else. We are talking about 1.5 percent of our income, of what Israel is producing — we can definitely deal without it.”

Since World War II, Israel is the largest recipient of US foreign aid, having received a total of $118 billion, most of it in the form of military assistance. Currently, Washington supports Israel with about $3 billion per year.

Newman asked Feiglin about former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul’s argument that the US administration is using the aid “to obtain leverage over the Israeli government when Israel should be thinking about its own interests rather than what Washington thinks.”

Feiglin responded, “I 100 percent agree.”

A freshman lawmaker from the far-right flank of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, Feiglin is known in Israel for his controversial views, which range from denying that the Palestinians are a people to advocating on behalf of medical marijuana. In recent weeks, he made headlines for his efforts to allow Jews to pray on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Last month, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein approved a decision to prevent Feiglin from visiting the volatile holy site for fear his presence there could spark violence and endanger Israel’s security. Protesting the move, Feiglin suspended himself from coalition discipline, vowing to cease all parliamentary work until he’s allowed to visit the Temple Mount.

‘History shows that big empires fall, and it doesn’t look like America today is on the rise’

In the lengthy interview with The New American, Feiglin also espoused the curious view that the US might not be able to survive its current financial crisis, while he is more optimistic about Israel’s future.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen with America — I’m more worried about America than about Israel,” he told the magazine. “I know it sounds maybe a little bit crazy. However, we are a nation of 3,300 years. We have our little ups and downs over our history, but it seems like physically we are stronger than ever.

“History shows that big empires fall, and it doesn’t look like America today is on the rise,” he continued. “So there’s more — from my historical understanding — there’s more to worry about now for America than about Israel. I think — and again, excuse me for saying so — I think America needs Israel not any less than Israel needs America.”

Feiglin said he is aware that his comments sound “a bit funny” — though not because the world’s last remaining superpower is also the world’s strongest economy, but because the US has so many more inhabitants than Israel. “But even though I’m aware of the numbers, I’m still saying what I’m saying because I think that Israel carries moral weight, and also technological and strategic and territorial weight, that is much bigger than its size.”

Based in Wisconsin, The New American is a biweekly magazine affiliated with the American far right. The publication admits to not trying to report objectively and instead having “an editorial point of view,” which regarding foreign policy is based on “avoiding foreign entanglements and going to war only when necessary to defend our country and citizens.”

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