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'Days of blank cheques for Israel sort of done': Former US Army officer

April 10, 2024 at 12:59 pm

Muslims pray outside of the Pennsylvania State Capitol during the Divest From Genocide rally. Protesters demanded that Pennsylvania State Treasurer Stacy Garrity stop investing public money in Israel Bonds and instead invest in Pennsylvania, United States on 5 February 2024 [Paul Weaver/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images]

With the number of those killed in Israel’s war on Gaza since 7 October last year recently surpassing 33,000, and the deaths last week of seven aid workers with food charity, World Central Kitchen, in an Israeli attack, the American public has been questioning US military support to Israel.

Although US President, Joe Biden, has asked Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to take more measures to protect civilians in Gaza, he also continues to support a bill that includes $14 billion in military aid to Israel.

Israel has been the largest cumulative recipient of US foreign aid since its founding in 1948, receiving about $300 billion according to the Council on Foreign Relations, with $216 billion of this amount consisting of military aid.

Despite Israel ranking 13th in the world in terms of GDP per capita (2023), ahead of countries such as the UK, New Zealand, France and Japan, it continues to receive over $3 billion in military assistance from Washington every year.

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In addition, it receives a contribution of $500 million every year within the scope of the joint missile air defence system development program.

Israel does not have an agreement with the US under NATO or any other alliance, yet it purchases billions of dollars worth of weapons and ammunition from Washington every year.

The Biden administration also submitted an additional $95 billion arms aid bill to Congress earlier this year, with $60 billion of this to go to Ukraine and $14 billion to Israel.

With that said, the military support given to the Netanyahu administration has come under public scrutiny.

‘The days of a blank cheques for Israel are sort of done’

Geopolitical consultant, Rich Outzen, a former US Army Colonel, said that some of the military aid to Israel will be spent on ammunition for its iron dome air defence system and some will be spent on ammunition used in aerial warfare.

“If you look at the sophistication of the threat and contextualise Hamas as part of this regional network of proxies, you realise that $14 billion is actually intended to deter Iran from further action,” Outzen said.

“So it’s not necessarily the full picture just to look at ‘is this the right number’ in terms of taking care of the military threat coming from Hamas in Gaza.”

Emphasising that the military and security cooperation between the US and Israel is strategic, he said that criticism towards Israel has been “muted” in the American public for decades.

Outzen noted that many people in Washington were dissatisfied with the shelving of the two-state solution policy in Palestine and underlined that especially the Gaza Occupation and the insensitivity of Netanyahu’s War Cabinet towards civilians began to cause reactions in the world and in America.

“The days of blank cheques for Israel are sort of done,” he said, stressing that “it is no longer a taboo to say Israel is doing this wrong.”

He noted that this was a “significant development”.

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Outzen underlined that, although the current reactions are not at a level to cut off arms aid to Israel, “we are in some new territory based on the very real humanitarian concerns and also concerns that there is no real strategy for the day-after in Israel.”

‘Despite all suffering, Gaza issue militarily secondary issue for US’

According to Geoffrey Aronson, a specialist in Middle East affairs known for his work on US foreign policy and the Israel-Palestine peace process, Washington acts in response to Iran and other regional risks.

“Despite all the suffering, the Gaza issue is a secondary issue for Washington militarily,” said Aronson.

Attributing this to the hesitation by the US in reviewing its arms support to Israel during the last six months since the start of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza on 7 October, he said that for this reason, the number of cases in history where arms supply to Israel was restricted can be counted “on the fingers of one hand.”

In 1982, Ronald Reagan stopped the shipment of US-made cluster bombs to Israel on the grounds that they were being used against civilian targets.

The Biden administration, in December 2023, also stopped the shipment of US-made infantry rifles to Israel due to concerns that they would be distributed to fanatic settlers.

In the six months since 7 October, however, no concrete steps have been taken on this issue in spite of the soaring civilian casualties.

Aronson noted that the US has given Israel “a far freer rein for far longer than it ever did in the past.”

Opining that this was a “strategic mistake of the US”, he said that “everyone is paying the price for that.”

Aronson noted that, in light of recent developments, they saw signs that steps could be taken to reverse this, adding, however, that Washington was too late for this.

Israel has waged a deadly military offensive on the Gaza Strip since a cross-border attack early last October by the Palestinian group, Hamas, which killed around 1,200 people.

However, since then, it has been revealed by Haaretz that helicopters and tanks of the Israeli army had, in fact, killed many of the 1,139 soldiers and civilians claimed by Israel to have been killed by the Palestinian Resistance.

Nearly 33,200 Palestinians have since been killed and almost 75,900 injured amid mass destruction and shortages of necessities.

Much of Gaza’s infrastructure has been destroyed and 1.9 million residents forcibly displaced, leaving them at risk of disease and famine.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which, in January, issued an interim ruling that ordered it to stop genocidal acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.

Seven aid workers with the US-based food charity, World Central Kitchen, were also killed in an Israeli airstrike on their convoy in Gaza last week.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.