Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Aid to Israel Was Supposed to be Temporary

I've written previously about our Orwellian Memory Hole. Just as young people in Oceana were ignorant of life before Big Brother, Americans are growing up ignorant of pre-9/11 American history.

Here's another blast from the past...

In the late 1970s/early 1980s, it was a "given" that U.S. aid to Israel was temporary. Even the Israeli lobby said so. It was one of their talking points for sending money to Israel.

Back then I attended high school in New York City, and often listened to Bob Grant's call-in radio talk show on WOR-AM. Grant was a big supporter of Israel, as were many of his callers.

Sometimes people called to complain about American tax dollars sent to Israel. One of the defenses offered by pro-Israel callers was: "Hey, it's only for a few years! Israel's having some tough economic times right now -- but just as soon as Israel gets on its feet, there'll be no more aid! You can help out our great friend and ally, just for a few years, can't you?"

This was about when Carter was doing his Camp David peace accords. Then came Israel's (expensive) incursion into Lebanon, and it became "just a few years more..."

A Fundamental Conservative/Libertarian Principle (in that they all at least claim to believe it) is that: Welfare is never temporary. Welfare creates dependency, and a demand for increasingly more money. Welfare recipients know no gratitude, but instead fight viciously to retain -- and increase -- their welfare benefits.

This principle is often proven correct, as in the case of Israel. Today most conservatives (and even some libertarians) accept American tax dollars for Israel as a "given."

Another forgotten excuse for sending money to Israel (one I often heard in the 1980s), was the Cold War. The rationale was that the Soviets funded the Arab states, so America had to fund Israel to "level the playing field."

This excuse had some surface logic during the Cold War. Wherever political strife, national tensions, or civil war arose (in Africa, Asia, or Latin America), the Soviets and Americans often funded opposing sides, each trying to prevent the other from establishing the sole foothold in that particular nation or region.

But with the Cold War's end, that logic was flipped on its head. The new "logic" was: "Hey, now that the Soviets have withdrawn from the Mideast, the U.S. can support Israel that much more safely, since there's no risk of escalating tensions into World War III. America should take advantage of this Golden Opportunity of being the world's Sole Superpower -- by supporting Israel!"

Both the Soviet's presence in the Mideast, and the lack of a Soviet presence, was a reason to fund Israel.

Another excuse I've heard over the years for American aid to Israel is that it benefits American business, because Israel spends some of that aid money in the U.S., buying weapons.

By that logic, why not instead give all of those tax dollars to Americans (via food stamps, welfare, health care, etc.), so that all of those tax dollars are spent in America? Would that not boost the economy that much more?

Curiously, no conservative or libertarian would advise increasing welfare payments to Americans as a way to boost the American economy -- but some have actually suggested that welfare payments to a foreign nation are a good way to boost the American economy.

(I assume such conservatives and libertarians know better; they don't believe their own talking points, but think they might get it past an audience that doesn't think too much about it.)

Another reason some conservatives and libertarians offer for sending tax dollars to Israel is that Israel needs the money. Israel could not survive without U.S. tax dollars, so that trumps all other principles. (I heard KABC-AM's John Phillips make the "needed for survival" argument earlier this year.)

But as Ayn Rand said, A need is not a claim. Conservatives and libertarians love quoting Rand when denying U.S. tax dollars to poor Americans, but curiously, a need is a claim -- when the claiment is Israel.

Yet even that isn't true -- Israel does not need U.S. aid to survive. Israel is a wealthy nation, with a heavily subsidized, socialist economy (like that of many Western European nations). Compared to Israeli economic policies, the "Marxist" Barak Obama looks like a free marketeer.

This brings us to yet another Fundamental Conservative/Libertarian Principle: Money is fungible. If I pay for your health care, I'm really paying for your car, your CD collection, your trip to Europe. The money you spent on your CDs and trip would have covered your health care, but since I subsidized your health care, you were free to spend your money on fun stuff.

Israel can easily pay for its own defense -- if it cuts back on its subsidized health care, education, housing, and other socialist goodies. Because money is fungible, American taxpayers are actually subsidizing Israelis' health care, housing, and education.

America is nearing bankruptcy, crippled by its own rising health care, housing, pension, infrastructure, and education expenses. Why should American taxpayers keep financing Israel's welfare state?

A need is not a claim, but Israel doesn't even need American money. Israel wants American money, because, like any welfare client, it's gotten used to it. Israel feels entitled to American tax dollars, and -- like many state union employees -- feels enraged and "attacked" if there's any talk of cutbacks.

Israel, like America, has forgotten that aid to Israel was originally supposed to be "only for a few years."

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