Obama in Israel: Unwavering Support For Israel is Not in the U.S. Interest

If you ask Americans who the United States’ number one ally is, chances are that most will respond "Israel." As a result of the infamous Israeli lobby, comprised mainly of evangelical Christians and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the U.S. government has a long history of providing unquestioning, unwavering support for Israel at the expense of the Palestinian people. 41% of American believe that the current level of support for Israel is appropriate, while another 25% do not believe that U.S. support for Israel goes far enough.

In Barack Obama’s first visit to Israel in his capacity as U.S. president on February 20, he reaffirmed "the unbreakable bonds between our nations," stating his intention to "reinstate America’s unwavering commitment to Israel’s security. It makes us both stronger. It makes us both more prosperous. And it makes the world a better place."

Truly defending Israeli security is one matter, but most Americans take that to mean that the U.S. should defend any action that the Israeli government takes, regardless of whether or not it infringes on Palestinian rights or security. This position ultimately is undermining Israeli security itself. Unfortunately, blind support for Israel is incredibly detrimental to U.S. interests.

According to the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. has given Israel about $115 billion in military aid since 1949. In 1987, the U.S. began to give Israel $1.8 billion in regular military assistance. For the years 2007-2018, the U.S. has promised Israel an initial package of $2.5 billion, which rose to $3.1 billion as of 2013. In addition to this, the U.S. provides funding for specific programs, such as the Iron Dome system, which costs just under $1 billion as of fiscal year 2013. The Iron Dome is probably a justifiable cost, provided that it is actually effective and ostensibly saves civilian lives, even though Palestinian civilians have no such luxury to shield themselves from Israeli attacks.

In the face of the U.S. budget crisis and soaring deficit, the U.S. cannot afford such extravagant spending, particularly when Israel uses much of it to maintain the occupation in the West Bank and draconian blockade on the Gaza Strip, undermining the peace process and Israeli security.

Human rights organizations routinely criticize Israel for human rights abuses stemming from the occupation of the West Bank, the draconian blockade of the Gaza Strip, and the disproportionate use of force on civilian populations in response to rocket attacks. Although the U.S. has a well documented historical and contemporary record of human rights abuses itself, Americans have lofty ideals and rhetoric when it comes to human rights, liberty, and self-determination, as any people should. However, the U.S. government and public do not stand with these purported values when they tacitly endorse Israeli policies that violate human rights.

In sharp contrast, the rest of the world views Israel unfavorably as a result of these very same policies. Thus, the United States’ blind support for Israel, coupled with copious amounts of military aid, transfers this resentment against Israel onto the U.S., which already contends with unfavorable opinions throughout the world as a result of its own foreign policy abuses, particularly in the Middle East. As such, whenever the U.S. attempts to make a stand for human rights in places like Syria, its unflinching support for Israel actively undermines its credibility.

Additionally, many people throughout the greater Middle East turn to violent, extremist strands of Islam and militancy as a direct result of U.S. military policies, including its blind support for Israel. Although many Americans do not bother to ask why hateful organizations like Al-Qaeda seek to destroy the U.S., it is a vital phenomenon to analyze and assess as it puts American lives at risk. The United States’ unequivocal support for Israel at the expense of Palestine is among the reasons why there is so much global anti-American sentiment. Osama bin Laden himself mentioned this as one of the key reasons for his jihad against the U.S. in his twisted letter justifying the 9/11 attacks.

Truly supporting Israel means supporting peace, coexistence, and an equitable solution for a Palestinian state. However, the U.S. gives Israel the green light to do whatever it wants in Palestine and openly funds its colonialist abuses, despite our own flailing economy and budget. Not only is this ultimately bad for Israeli security, it undermines U.S. credibility on the world stage and helps create U.S. enemies.