I am an agnostic regarding the claim that the State of Israel, as it presently exists, is the fulfillment of the pious desires of ancient prophets and martyrs. But I am convinced to the point of moral certainty that Israel has no legitimate claim on our tax dollars or military aid, and that Washington’s subsidy of Israel has been an unalloyed disaster for both Israel and the region.
The ongoing stream of financial and material aid to Israel has created a uniquely damaging form of moral hazard. The amount of aid grows in proportion to the perceived threat to Israel. At the same time, Washington doles out aid to the Palestinian “leadership,” generally favoring the worst and most corrupt elements within that population. Tax dollars are also used to slop the foreign aid troughs of such governments as Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, and of course, “liberated” Iraq.
Buy-offs of this kind are justified as part of the “peace process,” but it actually creates a perverse incentive to sustain the violence, or at least the threat thereof: If peace were actually to break out, the rationale for that aid would disappear.
There is a sense in which Washington’s aid to Israel is akin to such museum-quality examples of government stupidity as FEMA’s flood insurance program, which encourages people to build homes in food plains, or the role played by government-sponsored entities such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in underwriting and securitizing bad mortgage loans. All of those programs subsidize risky behavior, and socialize the costs when that behavior leads to disaster.
Israel’s punitive military excursion into Gaza is a splendid example of the same kind of subsidized foolishness, this time in international rather than domestic affairs.
Gaza is the world’s largest prison camp; an Israeli embargo prevents the Gazans from obtaining most of the necessities of life. Once ruled by Yasser Arafat’s Fatah Party, the Gazans are now ruled by Hamas, a terrorist-dominated “independence movement” that was created with help from Israeli intelligence to be a “counterweight” to Arafat’s movement.
Intermittent rocket attacks into Israel by Hamas cadres provided the pretext for the current Israeli war on Gaza. These attacks are not “resistance” to the Israeli government’s suffocating blockade of Gaza; they are cynical, damnable terrorist assaults on Israeli citizens – carried out, ironically, by elements of a movement created and sustained by the Israeli government itself.
The Israeli government and its defenders describe the Hamas missile attacks as a violation of a cease-fire agreement and, therefore, proof that the population of Gaza is incorrigibly committed to violence. But the current Israeli campaign was planned more than six months ago – before the cease-fire even went into effect. Had Hamas not been stupid enough to fire a handful of largely useless rockets into Israel, some other provocation would have been arranged to justify the invasion of Gaza.
Just War principles do not require a strictly proportionate response to an attack. However, there is a point where punitive action taken in self-defense becomes aggression, and aggression becomes a slaughter.
In this case, the Israeli military is waging a clearly indiscriminate war against a helpless civilian population. And this is being done as part of a punitive mission that will not end, or significantly reduce, the ability of Hamas to conduct minimally damaging rocket attacks into Israel – a fact at least some supporters of the Israeli action consider proof of the IDF’s insufficient ruthlessness.
Waging war in this fashion is politically profitable for elements of both the Israeli government and the Palestinian leadership. This reflects a durable, and carefully concealed, symbiosis described by Ben Cramer in his immensely important book How Israel Lost.
One illustration of that symbiosis mentioned by Cramer is the creation by the Mossad of Hamas, which nurtured the cult of suicide bombing and has killed hundreds of Israelis since 1988. While this was supposedly done to provide a “counter-weight” to Arafat, the Israeli establishment maintained intimate ties with him, as well – even as Israelis and Palestinians were dying by the hundreds in a supposedly irrepressible conflict.
Victims of a cynical, murderous charade: The bodies of a mother and her children, killed by U.S. weapons in Israeli hands.
"The PA's slimy business intersects with Israeli business at the highest levels of Israeli political life," wrote Cramer with palpable disgust. "Things are not as they seem."
Cramer illustrated this cynical “understanding” by highlighting the relationship between Israeli-owned Dor Energy and the PLO-operated Palestinian fuel monopoly. Dor's petroleum depot was a large, conspicuous target on the border with Gaza, re-supplied at regular, predictable intervals by large, slow-moving fuel tankers. In any of the numerous Israeli military strikes on Gaza, both the depot and the trucks would make irresistible targets. Yet, owing to the deal arranged between power-brokers on both sides of the conflict, neither the depot nor any of the tankers has ever been hit.
By far the most lucrative “arrangement,” Cramer explains, is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict itself, in which outbreaks of violence are timed to serve the political interests of leaders on both sides.
Prior to his death in November 2004, Arafat’s popularity "in opinion polls [would often] teeter near nowhere--invisibility--until his rescue by Israeli action against him," Cramer points out. The same was true of Ariel Sharon: "If his polls dropped, something terrible happened--dead Jews all over the TV," and his political fortunes would rise.
Exactly the same cynical game is afoot now in the latest bloodletting in Gaza. The present conflict, remember, was being planned six months ago, and is being played for political advantage by the incumbent Israeli government.
Once it’s understood that the Israeli-Palestinian blood feud is, in some ways, a scripted exercise akin to a professional wrestling “match” -- albeit one on a much bigger scale, with real injury and death – then it’s easy to understand why peace is so elusive. Those in charge of the Israeli State, and those who aspire to run the embryonic Palestinian State, simply find the conflict too politically and materially profitable to abandon, despite the horrors it inflicts on the victims of their misrule.
“Why is there no peace?” asks Cramer. “Who wants one?”
It is impossible to see how this murderous charade could continue without the financial and material intervention of Washington. Were the U.S. to do what our Constitution and founding principles require – withdraw all subsidies and support from both sides of the conflict – the perverse incentives that propel much of this conflict would be removed.
U.S. withdrawal wouldn’t palliate ancient ethno-religious grievances, or those of a more recent vintage rooted in the dispossession of the Palestinians. But it would force the antagonists to make a more realistic accounting of the actual costs of the conflict, which might prod them to make the kind of grudging, halting, agonizingly reluctant material overtures that eventually lead to peace. Of course, American withdrawal is going to happen anyway when the destruction of the dollar is consummated, a fact that should not be lost on those interested in Israel's survival. That nation's ability to dominate its rivals militarily is a particularly pernicious variant of an investment bubble, one that has distorted Israel's priorities and discouraged it from creating a security framework on assumptions that don't involve leveraging U.S. power on its behalf.
The bubble of U.S.-Israeli dominance in the Middle East will burst as soon as the fiat dollar's global hegemony ends.