Obama’s Gift to Israel – and Lockheed
J P Sottile, AntiWar.com, Sep 30 2016
The Israeli lobby wins again! That’s the obvious takeaway from Obama’s historically large, but not quite unprecedented $38b “aid package” to Netanyahu’s supposedly intransigent government. In Israel, the ten-year deal is seen as a solid but not complete victory for Bibi. In Pindostan, the deal looks like it’s the cost of doing business with Iran. Sadly, the deal also looks like a bad sign of things to come for the Palestinian people. Shortly after the deal was sealed, Obama’s farewell tour took him to the UN, where he stated without irony, “Israel must recognize that it cannot permanently occupy and settle Palestinian land.” The utter toothlessness of his admonition was preemptively underlined by a fascinating online video posted by Netanyahu in which he claimed the Palestinians, not the rapidly encroaching Israelis, were the real outlaws. Apparently, they are advocating “ethnic cleansing” by hoping to reclaim pilfered land from illegal Israel settlements peppered throughout the absconded territory of the West Bank. It’s an amazing bit of pretzel logic gleefully served up to a dwindling, demoralized crowd of two-state enthusiasts. The mustard came when Obama made his final, flaccid appeal to a now-buoyant Bibi regarding his not-so-subtle expansion of Israel’s ethnically-pure settlements.
Of course, this predictable turn of events confirmed what critics of Israel’s outsized influence have always believed: that when it comes to the State of Israel, the fix is always in no matter how badly the “special relationship” appears to be broken. In 2006, John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard University made a strong case that, as they wrote in the London Review of Books, the “Israel Lobby” surpasses all “other special-interest groups” in its ability to not just “skew foreign policy” away from Pindostan’s “national interest,” but it has also simultaneously convinced “Pindosis that Pindo interests and those of the other country, in this case Israel, are essentially identical.” Although there’s little doubt that much of Pindostan’s foreign policy establishment seems inexorably convinced that the two nations share “identical” interests, there are indications that Israel is not quite the arm-twister it used to be. That’s because the Iran Nuke Deal was a distinct departure from the usually suspect arrangement between Washington and Tel Aviv. It does appear that Obama broke 40 years of Israeli exceptionalism to defeat the vaunted Israeli Lobby. In exchange, Obama had to paper-over that unprecedented break with $38b. In effect, he purchased Israel’s acceptance of the Iran Nuclear Deal. It’s transactional politics and it makes a lot of sense. To keep war with Iran off the table, Obama simply had to reinforce Israel’s nuclear-tipped military edge over Iran, over other regional powers and over the people living in the bombing range also known as Gaza. But there is another thrust to the bulging aid package. It also reinforced Pindostan’s notable edge as the world’s leading salesman of military hardware. And that’s the interesting upshot of the big deal with little Israel. It’s all laid out in a synopsis of the “Memorandum of Understanding” published by the White House:
- This amount represents a significant increase over the current MOU by every measure, and will enable Israel to acquire additional advanced military capabilities from Pindostan.
- It includes $33b in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) funds and an unprecedented $5b commitment in missile defense assistance. This funding will be disbursed in equal increments of $3.3b in FMF and $500m in missile defense funding each year for the duration of the understanding.
- In practical terms, the level of funding specified in the MOU will permit Israel to update the lion’s share of its fighter aircraft fleet, including through the acquisition of additional F-35s, increase its missile defense, and acquire other defense capabilities needed to meet its threat environment.
- The $500m/yr missile defense funding under the MOU exceeds the average level of non-emergency support that Pindostan has provided to Israel for missile defense over the last five years.
Most importantly, President Peace Prize secured a key provision that terminates Israel’s ability to spend 26.3% of Uncle Sam’s annual gift “within Israel on non-Pindosi products.” In other words, all of the tax dollars Uncle Sam sends over there now have to come back here and be spent in Uncle Sam’s Club, aka Pindostan’s Supermarket of Military Hardware. In fact, the White House stated with detectable pride:
Israel will spend more funding, as much as $1.2b/yr, on the advanced military capabilities that only Pindostan can provide.
So, Israel’s big win also cornered a part of their market for those Pindosi corporations that lead the world in developing new and exciting ways of killing people. And it comes none too soon for Pindostan’s defense industry. As a “longtime consultant for Pindo military contractors” recently told ForeignPolicy.com, the already wildly profitable defense industry is looking for some assistance because “domestic defense spending is flat as a pancake and Israel is a consumer of high-end military technology.” And nothing is more “high-end” (and more in need of aid) than Lockheed Martin’s bloated boondoggle, the F-35. As it turns out, the biggest win of all might be for Lockheed’s embattled trillion-plus dollar weapon system. So far, the “next generation” fighter injures its pilots, just suffered “another engine fire” from tailwinds, probably cannot beat the F-16 or European Typhoon in a dogfight and is still hampered by a panoply of “serious problems,” according to the “Pentagon’s top weapons tester.” But fear not, Lockheed shareholders, here comes military aid to the rescue!
As Eric Pianin detailed in The Fiscal Times, Israel was an early-adopter of the “ill-fated, long overdue and far over budget” fighter jet. In 2006, they slated an “augmented version” of the jet as a replacement for yet another profitable weapon system purchased from Uncle Sam’s Club, their fleet of 300 F-16s. The problem is that they’d budgeted $5b to buy 100 F-35s. That works out to a bargain price of $50m per plane. But now, writes Pianin: “the price tag has ballooned to $15b, or about $200m per plane.” So, it’s quadrupled in price over the last decade, and it hasn’t even been delivered yet! But the first souped-up Israeli model is supposed to arrive on Dec 12, 2016. And that’s where the $38b deal comes in. The “aid” is going to help the Israelis make up the difference. So, thanks to the Pindosi taxpayer, they’ll be able to afford to receive the plane from Lockheed, which has only been able to build the plane because of an ongoing subsidy also provided by the Pindosi taxpayer in the form of the Pentagon’s own haphazard effort to get the “most expensive weapons system in history” off the ground here in Pindostan. Can’t you just hear the money flushing down the drain and into the already-flush bank accounts of the executives and shareholders who are perennially enriched by the world’s biggest weapons-maker and the Pindosi government’s biggest contractor?
Not coincidentally, Lockheed has spent over $7m on lobbying thus far this year. And that’s why it’s worth considering that the Israel Lobby is not, as Mearsheimer and Walt claimed in 2006 and many believe today, the apex predator among the herd of special interest groups feasting on Pindo foreign policy. The vaunted AIPAC has spent $1.8m on lobbying so far this year. Its high-water mark was during last year’s scrum around the Iran nuclear deal when it spent $3.88m, according to OpenSecrets.org. And Lockheed’s high-water mark? They hit $16.1m in 2008, when the profitable but ever-more catastrophic GWOT came under a great deal of election-year scrutiny. That year was a high-water mark for the industry as a whole with a whopping $153.3m spread around the political process by Profiteers of Doom. Lockheed also leads the defense industry pack in giving to Congress critturs of both stripes. So far this year they’ve doled-out $3.1m while the entire industry has dropped a cool $22m around Capitol Hill, according to OpenSecrets.org’s latest numbers. It’s almost enough to make Sheldon Adelson blush.
So, here’s the question: Is Israel’s $38b windfall really yet another example of how Washington is “Israeli Occupied Territory”? Or it is just a continuation of a decades-long defense industry money-laundering scheme dating back to the start of the Cold War with the Mutual Defense Assistance Act of 1949? That’s when the so-called Iron Curtain officially became a cash cow for the Military-Industrial Complex, and Harry Truman created one of the industry’s most reliable slush funds: foreign military assistance. Some of that aid was used to send Pindo weapons directly to allies. Some of it was direct aid (money) used to buy Pindo weapons. Some of it financed the purchase of Pindo weapons. And some of was used to buy from other dealers, particularly as Europe built-up its own, NATO-stoked defense industry. But mostly it’s been a tidy little loop that cycles Pindo tax dollars back to the corporate arms dealers back in Pindostan. And it still is. That’s why contractors are touting Cold War 2.0 to investors and why the State Dept deploys de facto salespeople to push arms around the Middle East and why the Israelis always get their way in spite of what would seem to be Pindostan’s larger national interests.