Questions for The Republican Jewish Coalition
By Boris Karpa
Recently, there was a large hoopla in the libertarian areas of the political Internet about the Republican Jewish Coalition. The Coalition – so did the Internet have it – refused to receive Ron Paul at their “Victory 2008 Republican Jewish Coalition Candidates Forum”. According to a variety of sources, Ron Paul was not allowed to get on the forums because he was 'not seen as a top tier contender' and 'opposed aid to Israel'. Given that the Internet is plagued with the kind of folks that'll blame 'the Israeli lobby' for global warming if you let them loose, I was doubtful.
But given that the editors of http://capitalism.co.il are very interested in the Ron Paul Revolution, I went out and called the RJC myself to verify. RJC's very kind press secretary (whose surname I was, unfortunately, not able to write down) confirmed to me that this was indeed true: Ron Paul was not invited because he was considered a 'long-shot candidate' and because he 'votes against aid to Israel' and 'criticizes the Israeli lobby'.
I will not discuss the first of these statements – the RJC has invited Huckabee, who polls consistently behind Ron Paul in both straw polls and scientific Gallup and Harris polls, and then refused to replace him with Ron Paul when Huckabee refused to arrive at the Candidates Forum. It is clear to me that the main reason for Ron Paul not being invited is the difference in policy between him and the RJC.
Is Ron Paul an enemy of Israel? He clearly isn't. He supported Israel's action against the Osirak reactor when practically everybody – including the Reagan Administration – condemned Israel. He has steadfastly refused to support congressional condemnation of Israel, or military aid to nations like Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
What seems to be the core of the argument? The military aid to Israel. The 2.25 billion dollars per year of funding that Israel receives. For those not in the know, this aid comes in the form of funds that must be spent on American equipment and services – essentially a subsidy for U.S. companies. As such, it is a subsidy program for both Israel's government and the United States' military-industrial complex.
And yet, is this program necessary for Israel's survival, or even beneficial for its well-being? Certainly not according to the Jerusalem Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, who state outright: “Foreign aid is the greatest obstacle to economic freedom in Israel.” Certainly not according to Binyamin Netanyahu, who, during his tenure as Prime Minister, hinted quite broadly that Israel would be better off without foreign aid.
Foreign aid does not only destroy Israel's indigenous military industries – even now, production of army shoes, Tavor assault rifles, and other items have been shifted in part or in whole across the Atlantic to qualify for the American funds – but it has a more insidious effect. It acts as a crutch for a military bureacracy that is huge, inept, and corrupt.
Not unlike Third World officials who feel they don't need to modernize their economy because the West will keep pumping in aid and money, Israeli Ministry of Defense officials believe that no matter how bad their own screw-ups are, they are safe – as long as they can fall back on American money and weapons.
As a result, the Israeli MoD is capable of immense amounts of waste – wasting, in fact, more Israeli taxpayer money then it receives in aid from America. When I spoke to Knesset Member Yossi Beilin, he told me that the Knesset members are not even allowed to read most of the military budget before passing it. This allows for truly unprecedented amounts of waste.
There is no place here to speak about army units deploying more vehicles then they have personnel, army units purchasing brand new armored personnel carriers and allowing them to rust away on the lawn unused until they are beyond repair. Let us just mention that an IDF officer retiring at the rank of major 33 receives $100,000 in benefits, that the amount of generals in the Israeli army rises 80% every ten years. Israel still practices the draft, which recruits thousands of soldiers the country doesn't need for any sensible military use. Ehud Barak, the Minister of Defense, claims 75% of the nation's non-combat soldiers serve no national defense purpose. The hidden economical costs are estimated to be $15,000 per draftee.
And here's the punchline: the budget for the civilian MoD bureaucracy (not the army) comes up to half the sum of US aid to Israel on its own (4-5 billion NIS). Further, according to the Ministry of Defense, only 20% of the military budget funds actual fighting and combat support units. 80% is the cost of bureacracy and rear-echelon units. That comes out to over ten billion dollars – over FOUR TIMES the size of US aid to Israel.
I would understand support for this sort of 'aid' among the American Democrats – they are known to believe that throwing money at problems solves them. But those are Republicans we're talking about here. And thus I have a few questions for any RJC members who happen to be reading this:
You people are smart enough to realize that welfare to African countries doesn't help them develop. Why do you think welfare to Israel is going to have any different effect? You people are smart enough to oppose subsidies for an abortion clinic in Omaha or a farm in Texas. Why are you willing to throw America's money at a government institution thousands of miles away? Why do you insist throwing money at people who let billions of dollars of their own money go to waste pointlessly? Maybe, just maybe, if Israel was deprived of the American government teat, it would use it's own taxpayer money with more efficiency.Most importantly, why are you so quick to assume that a person who opposes this welfare program is not a candidate whose opinions bears listening to, if not on this one issue, then on others?
Does disagreement on this one point make a candidate unlegitimate to you, even though he agrees with the Republican Jewish Coalition on so many others?
According to the 2004 Annual Report by Israel's Inspector-General, while the Knesset budgeted 46.8 billion shekels to the IDF, de-facto 58.5 billion shekels were transferred. The difference is over 3 billion dollars wasted, or a sum greater then the entire US aid to Israel.
Boris Karpa is a libertarian columnist and professional translator in Ashdod, Israel. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org