Archive for October 3rd, 2009

Obama, Nuclear Arms Reduction, and the Immense Power of the Israel Lobby

Obama, Nuclear Arms Reduction, and the Immense Power of the Israel Lobby

Saturday, October 3, 2009 5:41 PM
From: “Stephen Sniegoski”

As the US berates Iran for its nuclear program–though there is no
substantial proof that Iran even intends to develop nuclear weapons–the
United States intentionally overlooks Israel’s existing nuclear arsenal so
that it will remain free from international inspection.  As an article in
the “Washington Times”  by Eli Lake (October 2)  points out,  Obama has
apparently pledged to Israel that the US will continue this
“head-in-the-sand” approach towards Israel’s nuclear arsenal despite his
pontificating about the need for a nuclear-free world.

As Lake’s article indicates, this secret agreement between the US and Israel
was initially made in 1969, and Israel successfully sought to have Obama
reiterate it.  Obama has, in fact, put this agreement on much firmer ground
since no formal record of such a previous agreement actually exists.  

Undoubtedly, such a secret agreement makes a mockery of Obama’s idealistic
talk of a nuclear-free world as well as his call for government
transparency.  It is quite reminiscent of the idealistic preaching of the
Allies in the World War I period about a just peace based upon national
self-determination and “open treaties openly arrived at” while at the same
time having secret treaties to enable the victors to carve up the spoils of
war among themselves.  When revealed, this hypocrisy caused popular
disillusionment with the post-war peace settlement and helped pave the way
for  World War II.  

Is Obama simply a hypocrite, with his anti-nuclear arms preaching being only
empty rhetoric?  The nations of the world can see the obvious double
standard, making any real international agreement impossible.  However, even
if Obama were totally indifferent to improving the world, which I don’t
think is the case, he would derive personal benefits (e.g., international
acclaim)  if his nuclear arms reductions proposals achieved some type of

Why does Obama, the head of the most powerful country in the world, allow
the parochial interests of a small foreign country, Israel,  to stand in the
way of his global agenda for the reduction of nuclear armaments?    As one
Senate staffer told the author of the “Washington Times” article:  “the
president gave commitments that politically he had no choice but to give
regarding Israel’s nuclear program.”  Let’s emphasize and then analyze those
key words: “POLITICALLY HE HAD NO CHOICE.” The Senate staffer (and it should
be noted that Senate staff make their living by understanding political
reality) presented this lack of choice as an objective fact, not a
subjective fear on Obama’s part.  It is not simply that Obama fears the
power of Israel and the Israel lobby; rather, according to the Senate
staffer, if Obama went against the interests of Israel on the nuclear issue,
the Israel lobby would wreck his presidency and prevent his re-election.
This would explain why Obama did not even dare to try to get the Israeli
government to make any compromise on its position of ambiguity regarding
nuclear weapons, such as declaring itself a member of the nuclear club and
allowing inspections. 

While the idea of a powerful Israel lobby is vociferously denied by the
mainstream and is often excoriated as an example of “anti-Semitism,”  the
power of the Israel lobby over the president of the United States in this
case underscores  the very immensity its political influence.  Of course,
the Israel lobby is so powerful that every significant mainstream figure who
wishes to remain in an august position must never publicize its real power.
This is not to say that the power of the Israel lobby is unlimited. Israel
and the Israel lobby have not yet demonstrated the power to directly force
the United States into a war on Iran.  And the war on Iraq required
skillful propaganda manipulation by the neoconservatives who were
strategically ensconced within  the Bush administration.  Israel and its
lobby’s inability so far  to pressure the United States to attack Iran is
largely due to resistance from the old foreign policy establishment and the
military, along with the general realization of the likely catastrophic
consequences of such military action.   However, Israel and its lobby have
been able to get the US to pursue policies that bring the US close to war,
and without that pressure the relations between the US and Iran would be far
more tranquil.  (See, for example, the CFR-sponsored report “Iran: Time for
a New Approach,” 2004, discussed on p. 259 of “The Transparent Cabal”)

Unless greater resistance to the Israel lobby is demonstrated by
politicians, especially the president, it is quite likely that the United
States will eventually drift into  war with Iran.  And effective resistance
to the Israel lobby would require politicians to take positions that could
lead to their political destruction.   Perhaps this is not possible. 

(For the background of the neoconservatives’ effort to push the US into war
on Iran, see my book  “The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda,
War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel”

My recent article “Afghanistan: Back Door to War on Iran” has been edited
and posted at:    )

Stephen Sniegoski


Washington Times

October 2, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: Obama agrees to keep Israel’s nukes secret

Eli Lake

President Obama has reaffirmed a 4-decade-old secret understanding that has
allowed Israel to keep a nuclear arsenal without opening it to international
inspections, three officials familiar with the understanding said.

The officials, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because
they were discussing private conversations, said Mr. Obama pledged to
maintain the agreement when he first hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu at the White House in May.

Under the understanding, the U.S. has not pressured Israel to disclose its
nuclear weapons or to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which
could require Israel to give up its estimated several hundred nuclear bombs.

Israel had been nervous that Mr. Obama would not continue the 1969
understanding because of his strong support for nonproliferation and
priority on preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The U.S. and
five other world powers made progress during talks with Iran in Geneva on
Thursday as Iran agreed in principle to transfer some potential bomb fuel
out of the country and to open a recently disclosed facility to
international inspection.

Mr. Netanyahu let the news of the continued U.S.-Israeli accord slip last
week in a remark that attracted little notice. He was asked by Israel’s
Channel 2 whether he was worried that Mr. Obama’s speech at the U.N. General
Assembly, calling for a world without nuclear weapons, would apply to

“It was utterly clear from the context of the speech that he was speaking
about North Korea and Iran,” the Israeli leader said. “But I want to remind
you that in my first meeting with President Obama in Washington I received
from him, and I asked to receive from him, an itemized list of the strategic
understandings that have existed for many years between Israel and the
United States on that issue. It was not for naught that I requested, and it
was not for naught that I received [that document].”

The chief nuclear understanding was reached at a summit between President
Nixon and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir that began on Sept. 25, 1969.
Avner Cohen, author of “Israel and the Bomb” and the leading authority
outside the Israeli government on the history of Israel’s nuclear program,
said the accord amounts to “the United States passively accepting Israel’s
nuclear weapons status as long as Israel does not unveil publicly its
capability or test a weapon.”

There is no formal record of the agreement nor have Israeli nor American
governments ever publicly acknowledged it. In 2007, however, the Nixon
library declassified a July 19, 1969, memo from national security adviser
Henry Kissinger that comes closest to articulating U.S. policy on the issue.
That memo says, “While we might ideally like to halt actual Israeli
possession, what we really want at a minimum may be just to keep Israeli
possession from becoming an established international fact.”

Mr. Cohen has said the resulting policy was the equivalent of “don’t ask,
don’t tell.”

The Netanyahu government sought to reaffirm the understanding in part out of
concern that Iran would seek Israeli disclosures of its nuclear program in
negotiations with the United States and other world powers. Iran has
frequently accused the U.S. of having a double standard by not objecting to
Israel’s arsenal.

Mr. Cohen said the reaffirmation and the fact that Mr. Netanyahu sought and
received a written record of the deal suggest that “it appears not only that
there was no joint understanding of what had been agreed in September 1969
but it is also apparent that even the notes of the two leaders may no longer
exist. It means that Netanyahu wanted to have something in writing that
implies that understanding. It also affirms the view that the United States
is in fact a partner in Israel’s policy of nuclear opacity.”

Jonathan Peled, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, declined
to comment, as did the White House National Security Council.

The secret understanding could undermine the Obama administration’s goal of
a world without nuclear weapons. In particular, it could impinge on U.S.
efforts to bring into force the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the
Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, two agreements that U.S. administrations
have argued should apply to Israel in the past. They would ban nuclear tests
and the production of material for weapons.

A Senate staffer familiar with the May reaffirmation, who asked not to be
named because of the sensitivity of the issue, said, “What this means is
that the president gave commitments that politically he had no choice but to
give regarding Israel’s nuclear program. However, it calls into question
virtually every part of the President’s nonproliferation agenda. The
president gave Israel an NPT treaty get out of jail free card.”

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said the
step was less injurious to U.S. policy.

“I think it is par for the course that the two incoming leaders of the
United States and Israel would want to clarify previous understandings
between their governments on this issue,” he said.

However Mr. Kimball added, “I would respectfully disagree with Mr.
Netanyahu. President Obama’s speech and U.N. Security Council Resolution
1887 apply to all countries irrespective of secret understandings between
the U.S. and Israel. A world without nuclear weapons is consistent with
Israel’s stated goal of achieving a Middle East free of weapons of mass
destruction. Obama’s message is that the same nonproliferation and
disarmament responsibilities should apply to all states and not just a few.”

Israeli nuclear doctrine is known as “the long corridor.” Under it, Israel
would begin to consider nuclear disarmament only after all countries
officially at war with it signed peace treaties and all neighboring
countries relinquished not only nuclear programs but also chemical and
biological arsenals. Israel sees nuclear weapons as an existential guarantee
in a hostile environment.

David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International
Security, said he hoped the Obama administration did not concede too much to

“One hopes that the price for such concessions is Israeli agreement to the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty and an
acceptance of the long-term goal of a Middle East
weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone,” he said. “Otherwise, the Obama
administration paid too much, given its focus on a world free of nuclear

‘Obama won’t press Israel to reveal nuclear arsenal’

General (Ret) James David is mentioned on the cover of the third edition of former Republican Congressman Paul Findley’s ‘They Dare to Speak Out’ book about the influence of the pro-Israel lobby (AIPAC and similar) on the US political system and media:


‘Obama won’t press Israel to reveal nuclear arsenal’

Saturday, October 3, 2009 8:42 AM
From: General (Ret) James David
The United States has lost friends and respect all over the world over the double standard it maintains for the state of Israel.  This double standard is the root of most of the violence we see in the Middle East today.  Is it going to take a revolution to change things around?
‘Obama won’t press Israel to reveal nuclear arsenal’ – Haaretz – Israel News
Last update – 09:56 03/10/2009
‘Obama won’t press Israel to reveal nuclear arsenal’
By Haaretz Service
U.S. President Barack Obama will not pressure Israel to disclose its nuclear arsenal to international inspection, as reported on Friday by The Washington Times.The 40-year-old covert agreement between the U.S. and Israel has allegedly permitted Israel to maintain an active nuclear facility without inspection that contains several hundred nuclear bombs.

The joint understanding was apparently reached during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the White House in May this year.

The report also said that the senior officials who had confirmed these findings spoke on the condition that they would not be named.

Israel was nervous Obama would retract U.S. understanding of the secret treaty signed in September 1969 in a summit between former U.S. President Richard Nixon and the then Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, the report added.

To date there is no official documentation of such an agreement nor has it ever been acknowledged by any U.S. or Israeli government.

The report follows a United Nations nuclear assembly resolution which urged Israel earlier this month to put all its atomic sites under the world body’s inspection and join the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Israel deplored the measure for singling it out while many of its neighbors remained hostile to its existence, and said it would not cooperate with it.

The non-binding resolution, which passed for the first time in 18 years of attempts thanks to more developing nation votes, voiced concern about “Israeli nuclear capabilities” and urged the International Atomic Energy Agency to tackle the issue.

Israel is one of only three countries worldwide along with India and Pakistan outside the nuclear NPT and is widely assumed to have the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal, though it has never confirmed or denied this.

UN Security Council members Russia and China also backed the resolution, which passed by 49 votes to 45 against in a floor vote at the IAEA’s annual member states conference.

The vote split along Western and developing nation lines. There were 16 abstentions.

“Israel will not cooperate in any matter with this resolution which is only aiming at reinforcing political hostilities and lines of division in the Middle East region,” chief Israeli delegate David Danieli told the chamber.

Western states said it was unfair and counterproductive to isolate one member state. They said an IAEA resolution passed on Thursday, urging all Middle East nations to foreswear atomic bombs, included Israel and made Friday’s proposal unnecessary.

Arab nations said Israel had brought the resolution on itself by having never signed the 40-year-old NPT.

Before the vote, U.S. Ambassador Glyn Davies said the resolution was “redundant … Such an approach is highly politicized and does not address the complexities at play regarding crucial nuclear-related issues in the Middle East.”

Calling the resolution “unbalanced”, Canada tried to block a vote on the floor with a “no-action motion”. But the procedural maneuver lost by an eight-vote margin. The same motion prevailed in 2007 and 2008.

A senior diplomat from the non-aligned movement of developing nations said times had changed.

“People and countries are bolder now, willing to call a spade a spade. You cannot hide or ignore the truth, the double standards, of Israel’s nuclear capability forever,” he said.





WMD All Over Again

A Conservative Estimate of Total Direct U.S. Aid to Israel: Almost $114 Billion


2008 November

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, November 2008, pages 10-11

Congress Watch

A Conservative Estimate of Total Direct U.S. Aid to Israel: Almost $114 Billion

By Shirl McArthur

TABLE 1: Direct U.S. Aid to Israel (millions of dollars)



All Other

Notes: FY 2000 military grants include $1.2 billion for the Wye agreement and $1.92 billion in annual military aid. FY 2003 military aid included $1 billion from the supplemental appropriations bill. The economic grant was earmarked for $960 million for FY 2000 but was reduced to meet the 0.38% rescission. Final amounts for FY 2003 are reduced by 0.65% mandated rescission, the amounts for FY 2004 are reduced by 0.59%, and the amounts for FY 2008 are reduced by .81%.

Sources: CRS Report RL33222: U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel, updated Jan. 2, 2008, plus the FY ’08 omnibus appropriations bill, H.R. 2764.

This estimate of total U.S. direct aid to Israel updates the estimate given in the July 2006 issue of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. It is an estimate because arriving at an exact figure is not possible, since parts of U.S. aid to Israel are a) buried in the budgets of various U.S. agencies, mostly that of the Defense Department (DOD), or b) in a form not easily quantifiable, such as the early disbursement of aid, giving Israel a direct benefit in interest income and the U.S. Treasury a corresponding loss. Given these caveats, our current estimate of cumulative total direct aid to Israel is $113.8554 billion.

It must be emphasized that this analysis is a conservative, defensible accounting of U.S. direct aid to Israel, NOT of Israel’s cost to the U.S. or the American taxpayer, nor of the benefits to Israel of U.S. aid. The distinction is important, because the indirect or consequential costs suffered by the U.S. as a result of its blind support for Israel exceed by many times the substantial amount of direct aid to Israel. (See, for example, the late Thomas R. Stauffer’s article in the June 2003 Washington Report, “The Costs to American Taxpayers of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: $3 Trillion.”)

Especially, this computation does not include the costs resulting from the invasion and occupation of Iraq—hundreds of billions of dollars, 4,000-plus U.S. and allied fatalities, untold tens of thousands of Iraqi deaths, and many thousands of other U.S., allied, and Iraqi casualties—which is almost universally believed in the Arab world to have been undertaken for the benefit of Israel. Among other “indirect or consequential” costs would be the costs of U.S. unilateral economic sanctions on Iran, Iraq, Libya and Syria, the costs to U.S. manufacturers of the Arab boycott, and the costs to U.S. companies and consumers of the 1973 Arab oil embargo and consequent and subsequent soaring oil prices partially as a result of U.S. support for Israel.

Among the real benefits to Israel that are not direct costs to the U.S. taxpayer are the early cash transfer of economic and military aid, in-country spending of a portion of military aid, and loan guarantees. The U.S. gives Israel all of its economic and military aid directly in cash during the first month of the fiscal year, with no accounting required of how the funds are used. Also, in contrast with other countries receiving military aid, who must purchase through the DOD, Israel deals directly with the U.S. companies, with no DOD review. Furthermore, Israel is allowed to spend 26.3 percent of each year’s military aid in Israel (no other recipient of U.S. military aid gets this benefit), which has resulted in an increasingly sophisticated Israeli defense industry. As a result, Israel has become a major world arms exporter; the Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports that in 2006 Israel was the world’s ninth leading supplier of arms worldwide, earning $4.4 billion from defense sales.

Another benefit to Israel are U.S. government loan guarantees. The major loan guarantees have been $600 million for housing between 1972 and 1990; $9.2 billion for Soviet Jewish resettlement between 1992 and 1997; about $5 billion for refinancing military loans commercially; and $9 billion in loan guarantees authorized in FY ’03 and extended to FY ’10. Of that $9 billion, CRS reports that Israel has drawn $4.1 billion through FY ’07. These loans have not—yet—cost the U.S. any money; they are listed on the Treasury Department’s books as “contingent liabilities,” which would be liabilities to the U.S. should Israel default. However, they have been of substantial, tangible benefit to Israel, because they enable Israel to borrow commercially at special terms and favorable interest rates.

Components of Israel Aid

Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. aid since World War II (not counting the huge sums being spent in Iraq). The $3 billion or so per year that Israel receives from the U.S. amounts to about $500 per Israeli. Most of this money is earmarked in the annual Foreign Operations (foreign aid) appropriations bills, with the three major items being military grants (Foreign Military Financing, or FMF), economic grants (Economic Support Funds, or ESF), and “migration and refugee assistance.” (Refugee assistance originally was intended to help Israel absorb Jewish refugees from the Soviet Union, but this was expanded in 1985 to include all refugees resettling in Israel. In fact, Israel doesn’t differentiate between refugees and other immigrants, so this money is used for all immigrants to Israel.)

Not earmarked but also included in congresssional appropriations bills is Israel’s portion of grants for American Schools and Hospitals Abroad (ASHA) and monies buried in the appropriations for other departments or agencies. These are mostly for so-called “U.S.-Israeli cooperative programs” in defense, agriculture, science, and hi-tech industries.

Before 1998, Israel received annually $1.8 billion in military grants and $1.2 billion in economic grants. Then, beginning in FY ‘99, the two countries agreed to reduce economic grants to Israel by $120 million and increase military grants by $60 million annually over 10 years. FY ’08 is the last year of that agreement, with military grants reaching $2.4 billion (reduced by an across-the-board rescission), and zero economic grants. Then, in August 2007, U.S. and Israeli officials signed a memorandum of understanding for a new 10-year, $30 billion aid package whereby FMF will gradually increase, beginning with $2.55 billion in FY ’09, and average $3 billion per year over the 10-year period.


TABLE 2: Foreign Aid and DOD Appropriations
Legislation Since FY 2004

  Basic Documents Conference Report Public Law
FY ’04 Defense H.R. 2658 H.Rept. 108-283 P.L. 108-87
          Omnibus H.R. 2673 H.Rept. 108-401 P.L. 108-199
FY ’05 Defense H.R. 4613 H.Rept. 108-662 P.L. 108-287
          Omnibus H.R. 4818 H.Rept. 108-792 P.L. 108-447
FY ’06 Defense H.R. 2863 H.Rept. 109-359 P.L. 109-148
          Foreign Aid H.R. 3057 H.Rept. 109-265 P.L. 109-102
FY ’07 Defense H.R. 5631 H.Rept. 109-676 P.L. 109-289
          Foreign Aid H.J.Res. 20   P.L. 110-5
FY ’08 Defense H.R. 3222 H.Rept. 110-434 P.L. 110-116
          Omnibus H.R. 2764 H.Rept. 110-497 P.L. 110-161
Notes: H.R.=House Resolution; S.=Senate Resolution; H.Rept.=House Report; the “public law” is the final, binding version, as signed by the president. In FY ’04, ’05, and ’08 defense was passed separately and foreign aid was included in the consolidated or “omnibus” bill. In FY ’07 defense was passed separately and foreign aid was included in the continuing resolution, H.J. Res. 20, which continued ’07 appropriations at the ’06 level with some exceptions—including, of course, for Israel.

As with previous Washington Report estimates of U.S. aid to Israel, this analysis is based on the annual CRS report, U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel, which uses available and verifiable numbers, primarily from the foreign operations appropriations bills. Although the CRS report does include such things as the old food for peace program, the $1.2 billion from the Wye agreement, the $1 billion in FMF included in the FY ’03 Emergency Supplemental appropriations bill, the subsidy for “refugee resettlement,” and money from the ASHA account, it does not include money from the DOD and other agencies. Nor does it include estimated interest on the early disbursement of aid.

The January 2008 CRS report on aid to Israel shows a total of $101.1908 billion through FY ’07. Table 1, on the previous page, is drawn from the summary table of that report, plus $2.4238 billion from the FY ’08 omnibus appropriations bill and estimates for ASHA and “other” amounts in FY ’08, for a total of $103.6147 billion through FY ’08.

To that has been added $10.2407 billion, as detailed below, for a grand total of $113.8554 billion.

Estimated Amounts Not Included in Table 1: $10.2407 Billion

Defense Department Funds: $7.694 Billion. For previous estimates, a search going back several years was able to identify $6.794 billion from the DOD to Israel through FY ‘06. Adding $450 million from the FY ’07 DOD appropriations and $450 million from the ’08 appropriations gives a total of $7.694 billion. (The FY ’08 appropriations bill earmarks $155.6 million for Israel. However, AIPAC’s Web site reported that the total for earmarked and non-earmarked programs was $450 million—and who would know better than the Israel lobby itself?)

The military aid from the DOD budget is mostly for specific projects. The largest items have been the canceled Lavi attack fighter project, the completed Merkava tank, the ongoing Arrow anti-missile missile project, and several other anti-missile systems, most recently the “David’s Sling” short-range missile defense system. Haaretz reported in June that a senior U.S. defense official has said the U.S. will support and help Israel’s development of the advanced Arrow 3 designed to intercept advanced ballistic missiles. The fact that the U.S. military was not interested in the Lavi or the Merkava for its own use and has said the same thing about the Arrow and the other anti-missile projects would seem to jettison the argument that these are “joint defense projects.” The FY ‘01 appropriations bill also gave Israel a grant of $700 million worth of military equipment, to be drawn down from stocks in Western Europe, and the FY ’05 defense appropriations bill includes a provision authorizing the DOD to transfer an unspecified amount of “surplus” military items from inventory to Israel. In addition, since 1988 Israel has been designated a “major non-NATO ally,” giving it access to U.S. weapons systems at lower prices, and preferential treatment in bidding for U.S. defense contracts.

Interest: $2.089 Billion. Israel receives its U.S. economic and military aid in a lump sum within one month of the new fiscal year or the passage of the appropriations act. Applying one-half of the prevailing interest rate to the aid for each year (on the assumption that the aid monies are drawn down over the course of the year), the July 2006 estimate arrived at a total of $1.991 billion through FY ’06. To that, using an interest rate of 4 percent, is added $50 million for FY ’07 and $48 million for FY ’08, for a cumulative total of $2.089 billion through FY ’08.

Other Grants and Endowments: $457.7 Million. The July 2006 report included $456.7 million in U.S. grants and endowments to U.S.-Israeli scientific and business cooperation organizations. The two largest are the BIRD (Israel-U.S. Binational Research & Development) Foundation and the BARD (Binational Agriculture and Research and Development) Fund. While these are mostly self-sustaining, the BARD Fund gets about $500,000 a year from the Agriculture Department. Adding $0.5 million for each of FY ’07 and ‘08 to the ’06 total gives a new total of $0.457.7 billion.

For the convenience of those who wish to look up more details, citations for the foreign aid and DOD appropriations bills for the past five years are given in Table 2 above.

Shirl McArthur, a retired U.S. foreign service officer, is a consultant based in the Washington, DC area.