The devastating Israeli firepower, unleashed largely
on Palestinian civilians in Gaza during two weeks of fighting, is the product
of advanced US military technology.
The US weapons systems used by the Israelis including F-16 fighter planes,
Apache helicopters, tactical missiles and a wide array of munitions have
been provided by Washington mostly as outright military grants.
The administration of President George W. Bush alone has provided over 21 billion
dollars in US security assistance over the last eight years, including 19
billion dollars in direct military aid as freebies.
"Israel's intervention in the Gaza Strip has been fueled largely by US
supplied weapons paid for with US tax dollars," says a background briefing
released Thursday by the Arms and Security Initiative of the New York-based
New America Foundation.
"The Bush administration has been unwilling to use its considerable influence
as Israel's major military and political backer to dissuade the
government in Tel Aviv from its pattern of claiming self-defense while perpetrating
collective punishment, human rights violations and undertaking massively disproportionate
attacks that harm and kill civilians," Frida Berrigan, senior program associate
at the New America Foundation, told IPS.
Besides military aid, the United States has contracted more than 22 billion
dollars in arms sales to Israel in 2008 alone, including a proposed deal for
75 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, nine C-130J-30 military transport aircraft and
four combat ships.
"So, when Israeli forces engage in combat in Gaza or the West Bank, they
are more often than not using US-designed systems that were either made in the
United States or produced under license in Israel," says the New America
The two-week military onslaught has resulted in the deaths of over 700 Palestinians,
including more than 300 civilians, mostly victims of US weaponry.
In comparison, the Israeli death toll is about seven soldiers and four civilians,
primarily due to "friendly fire", or victims of rocket attacks by
Mouin Rabbani, contributing editor at the Washington-based Middle East Report,
says the intimacy of the US-Israeli military relationship, and the frequency
with which Israel launches wars, means that the Israeli military also performs
the function of testing newly-developed weapons systems in actual warfare, which
is of value to both Israel and the United States.
"Twice over, in fact, because less effective versions of these same weapons
systems are subsequently sold at hugely inflated prices to Arab states, which
effectively subsidizes the US weapons industry and US military grants to Israel,"
he told IPS.
Tracing historical links, Rabbani said Israel replaced South Vietnam as the
primary recipient of US foreign military aid in the 1970s and has maintained
that status ever since.
With consistently fewer exceptions over the years, he pointed out, Israel has
the run of the US arsenal, particularly with regard to obtaining new and advanced
weapons that are not sold (or, as in the present case, given) to non-NATO (North
Atlantic Treaty Organization) allies.
He said that Israel is also permitted to participate in various US weapons
development programs, meaning that in addition to weapons deliveries it benefits
enormously from the transfer of military technologies.
"Israel also has access to various US intelligence programs and data,
and the list goes on for quite some length," Rabbani added.
Last week, US Congressman Dennis Kucinich (Democrat of Ohio) wrote a letter
to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pointing out that Israel's use of US
weapons in Gaza may constitute a violation of the requirements of the Arms Export
Control Act (AECA) of 1976.
The AECA outlines the conditions under which countries may use US weapons systems,
primarily for "internal security" or "legitimate self defense".
The letter says that Israeli forces have used US-supplied F-16 fighter planes
and Apache helicopters "to precede and to support ongoing ground actions
such as the one in which 40 Palestinians were killed while taking shelter in
a UN facility."
"Israel is not exempt from international law and must be held accountable,"
Berrigan said that with the onslaught about to enter its third week, hundreds
of Gazans killed and wounded, 10 Israelis killed and more wounded, Hamas continuing
to launch rocket attacks and a grave danger that the conflict will widen to
include Lebanon, President-elect Barack Obama "will step into a bed of
molten hot quicksand on Jan. 20."
"It will be difficult for the new administration to turn the tide of US-Israeli
relations and challenge Israeli exceptionalism, but it is urgently necessary,"
Rabbani pointed out that given the level of US military assistance to Israel,
the deployment of these weapons in the current onslaught against the Gaza Strip,
and US political support for Israel during this crisis, Palestinians could
be forgiven for insisting the US shares direct responsibility.
"While I would by no means dismiss the issue of US military transfers
to Israel in their various forms and dimensions, the key issue is nevertheless
the impunity with which these are used," he added.
It is this impunity, rather than the weapons transfers in and of themselves,
that accounts for Israel's ability to sow widespread death and destruction throughout
the Gaza Strip at will.
Asked if there would a change in policy under an Obama administration, Rabbani
said: "I don't see any indication that things are set to change once Obama
He has attempted to wrap his silence in a cloak of decorum and statesmanship,
"claiming he was left with no choice because he is not yet president, then
in view of his constant pronouncements since Nov. 4 regarding the financial
meltdown rather too cleverly in my view elaborated that this only applies
to foreign policy."
"So we are supposed to believe that if instead 600 Israelis had been killed
by Palestinian suicide bombers in the space of 10 days, or Russia had decided
to suddenly advance on Tbilisi, you could still hear a pin drop in Washington?
(Inter Press Service)