Archive for December 19th, 2009

Obama Approves $30 Billion in Military Aid to Israel Over Next Decade

Obama Approves $30 Billion in Military Aid to Israel Over Next Decade

Posted By Jason Ditz On December 18, 2009 @ 7:44 pm

As the single largest expense of the 2010 foreign aid budget, President Obama approved $2.775 billion in military aid to Israel, the first payment in a decade-long commitment that will reach at least $30 billion.

Last year, Israel’s military budget amounted to $13.3 billion, so the US funding is a significant portion of their overall expenditure. The US formerly provided both military and civilian aid, but it has since been folded entirely into military aid, at Israel’s request.

The money is not a blank check, however. The US requires that Israel spend at least 75% of the money given in military aid with US military contractors, effectively using the foreign aid budget to subsidize domestic weapon-makers.

In addition to military aid, the US also provides $3.148 billion in loan guarantees to Israel, part of a Treasury Department program aimed at keep Israel’s debt manageable. Ironically, though the US budget is spiraling out of control and America’s own debt continues to rise, there was no serious debate of reducing aid to Israel.

The budget also pledges $500 million in American aid to the Fatah Party’s Palestinian Authority. This aid is contingent on certain requirements, including that the group recognize Israel. This funding is distinct from any funding the CIA may give the Palestinian Authority’s security forces, which would be secret.


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U.S.-Israeli Arms Cooperation Quietly Growing

http://www.forward.com/articles/121182/

U.S.-Israeli Arms Cooperation Quietly Growing

By Nathan Guttman

Washington — Leaders in Washington and Jerusalem have publicly locked horns over the issue of West Bank settlements. And Israeli public opinion has largely viewed America’s new administration as unfriendly. But behind the scenes, strategic security relations between the two countries are flourishing.

GETTY IMAGES

Joint Exercise: Israeli soldiers train near the coastal city of Ashdod in October, part of the largest missile defense dry run ever held. Some 1,400 American soldiers were also involved.

Israeli officials have been singing the praises of President Obama for his willingness to address their defense concerns and for actions taken by his administration to bolster Israel’s qualitative military edge — an edge eroded, according to Israel, during the final year of the George W. Bush presidency.

 

Among the new initiatives taken by the administration, the Forward has learned, are adjustments in a massive arms deal the Bush administration made with Arab Gulf states in response to Israeli concerns. There have also been upgrades in U.S.-Israeli military cooperation on missile defense. And a deal is expected next year that will see one of the United States’ most advanced fighter jets go to Israel with some of America’s most sensitive new technology.

 

Amid the cacophony of U.S.-Israel clashes on the diplomatic front, public attention given to this intensified strategic cooperation has been scant. But in a rare public comment in October, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren praised the Obama administration’s response to complaints about lost ground during the close of the Bush years as “warm and immediate.”

 

“We came to the Obama administration and said, ‘Listen, we have a problem here,’” Oren, told a gathering of the National Jewish Democratic Council. “The administration’s reaction was immediate: we are going to address this issue, we are going to make sure that we maintain your QME [qualitative military edge].”

 

The warmth seems to stand in contrast to public opinion in Israel, which, according to a recent survey, is highly critical of Obama, seeing him as weak and naive. Bush is perceived as having been a much stronger ally.

But when the new administration settled in, it faced entreaties from Jerusalem to redress what Israeli officials saw as an erosion on the strategic side during the last stage of Bush’s tenure.

 

The Israelis cited Arab progress in replacing old Soviet weapons with new Western arms, and advances in the operational technology of weapons that has made Israel’s investment in human skills less significant.

But Jerusalem’s concerns, well-informed Israeli sources say, were also stoked by a massive $20 billion arms deal that the United States signed with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states during the Bush administration’s last year. In its attempt to counter Iran’s military buildup and nuclear ambitions, the former administration approved an arms contract that included upgrades of the Gulf countries’ air and naval capabilities, as well as advanced missile defense systems and modern satellite-guided bombs.

 

Israel, which sees Iran as its prime enemy in the region, initially accepted the Bush strategists’ rationale for the huge arms transfer. Jerusalem voiced only mild concern regarding some of the specifics, mainly the supply of precision bombs.

 

But in recent months, Israeli defense officials visiting Washington stepped up complaints about the Saudi deal. To the newly installed Obama administration officials, the Israelis argued that the usage and deployment of these arms breached earlier understandings and could tilt the military balance against Israel.

 

These complaints were met with what one Israeli diplomat called a “receptiveness” that was demonstrated in the new administration’s willingness to adjust the arms deployments to mitigate Israel’s concerns.

 

A former senior security official in the Bush administration said Bush’s guidance to all levels was to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge. The ex-official, who would speak only on background, added that the arms sales to Gulf countries were done in light of the Arab world’s anxiety over Iran’s ambitions. “We saw it as a positive for all sides,” he said, adding Israel had no complaints against it “on the strategic level.”

 

According to Steve Rosen, a former lobbyist for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee who is now a private consultant, the Obama administration, and especially the Pentagon, is now more open to supplying Israel with cutting-edge technology in an attempt to ensure Israel’s confidence and possibly steer Jerusalem away from the idea of attacking Iran. “In an effort to give Israel a larger margin of safety, the U.S. is releasing technology that under other circumstances would have been seen as more sensitive,” he said.

 

The United States and Israel have also recently launched a new consultative mechanism for discussing and addressing issues relating to Israel’s qualitative military edge. This new process, involving key officials from the Pentagon and State Department on the American side and Israel’s Foreign and Defense ministries, is currently being applied to several outstanding Israeli concerns. Israeli defense officials and pro-Israel activists characterize this as a significant development in strategic consultations between the two countries.

 

America’s commitment to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge was codified directly into U.S. law via 2008 legislation backed by AIPAC. This legislation requires the president to report to Congress periodically on actions taken by the administration to ensure Israel’s advantage. A spokeswoman for the House Foreign Affairs Committee told the Forward that the White House provided its first report to Congress this past summer. The report was classified, and no information regarding its content has been released.

 

Long before the 2008 law, the Reagan administration promised that America would ensure Israel’s military advantage over its neighbors. And succeeding presidents have maintained this commitment. The commitment defined Israel’s strategic advantage as the difference between Israel’s military capabilities compared with each one of its Arab adversaries or with the combination of all adversaries.

 

“Originally, it was Israel’s way to overcome its numeric inferiority,” said Guy Ben-Ari, deputy director of the defense-industrial initiatives group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He explained that the notion has been held up by both sides, despite the fact that Israel’s main military challenges — confronting terrorism and Iran’s nuclear threat — are not issues determined by the size of its military. The Israelis stressed that what happened during the close of Bush’s tenure was an erosion of Israeli’s military edge, not a breach of the Reagan era commitment.

 

Beyond correcting the perceived imbalance that developed under Bush, Israeli officials have also praised the Obama administration for increasing cooperation about missile defense. A November joint American-Israeli exercise, codenamed Juniper Cobra, was the largest and most extensive missile defense dry run ever held, and involved 1,400 American servicemen simulating responses to a possible attack against Israel. “The size and the high profile [of the exercise] are a signal from the administration about its commitment to Israel’s security,” an Israeli diplomat said.

 

Another deal that is highly anticipated in Israel is the expected sale of the advanced F-35 fighter jets to Israel’s air force. The Pentagon has offered Israel a unique version of the radar-evading future aircraft for supply in 2015. A deal is expected to be signed early next year.

 

Still, Israeli officials and American lobbyists stressed that not all outstanding issues have been resolved. Supporters of Israel are now pushing for the administration and Congress to limit American arms sales to Lebanon because of the re-emergence of Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon on Israel’s northern border, and the failure of the central government in Beirut to disarm the group. Pro-Israel lobbyists cite their concern that American weapons might fall into the hands of Hezbollah, which is backed by Israel’s avowed enemy, Iran.

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com

No-Fault Espionage (by Philip Giraldi)

No-Fault Espionage

Posted By Philip Giraldi On December 16, 2009 @ 11:00 pm

It is interesting to note what happens to espionage cases in the United States.  If you spy for China, or Cuba, or Iran you will be exposed, excoriated in the media, locked up and denied bail, convicted, and sentenced to many years in a federal prison.  Spying is serious business and the harsh punishment most often fits the crime because when spies steal highly sensitive defense and policy information they are not only betraying their fellow citizens, they are also making all Americans less secure.  And the spying is only slightly less serious when American technology is being targeted.  When spies acting for a foreign country steal sensitive technology with commercial applications that is developed at great cost either by the US government or private companies, their betrayal is also taking away the livelihoods of thousands of American workers who rely on the competitive edge of US technology to keep their jobs.

Spies are traitors in every sense of the word, unless, of course, if one is spying for Israel. Israel aggressively spies on the US both to influence policy and steal high technology, but getting caught only very rarely has any consequences.  Leading neoconservatives like Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, and Stephen Bryen have all been detected in flagrante providing classified information to Israel but the investigations were halted and their security clearances were godfathered so they could continue to hold high office.  FBI counter intelligence officer John Cole has reported on the frustration of his colleagues over the many cases of Israeli espionage that are dropped under orders from the Justice Department.  He provides a “conservative estimate” of 125 worthwhile investigations into Israeli espionage in the US involving both American citizens and Israelis stopped due to political pressure from above. Israeli citizens and diplomats who are caught in the act spying are routinely freed without criminal charges and allowed to return home. 

If you are an American who spies for Israel, a separate and unequal criminal justice system kicks in and the media quickly excuses your actions and then makes the story go away just as fast as it can. Most readers of Antiwar.com are familiar with the recent case of AIPAC officials Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman.  The two men were given information that they knew to be classified by Pentagon employee Larry Franklin, who perhaps not coincidentally worked for Doug Feith.  They passed the information on to an intelligence officer at the Israeli Embassy with whom they were also in contact. The FBI set up a sting using Franklin and arrested all three of the men under the Espionage Act of 1917.  The arrest was followed by a nearly three year long trial in which the AIPAC duo finally escaped any punishment after presiding Judge Thomas Ellis obligingly set conditions that made it impossible for the prosecution to proceed.  Franklin, who pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 151 months in prison, was subsequently freed of his obligation to do any jail time by the same Judge Ellis.  While the trial was going on, it was conspicuously underreported by the media.

Predictably, many in the media and in the neocon establishment criticized the arrests of Rosen and Weissman, commenting that exchanges of classified “information” were routine in Washington and that Israel is a good friend requiring the classified intelligence for its own security.  The argument might not have convinced the American public, but it certainly convinced the barking dogs in the media and Judge Ellis, particularly as there might have been a little nudging from important politicians taking place.  Congresswoman Jane Harman, who was caught on the phone trading favors with an agent working for Israeli intelligence promised to use her influence in the Rosen-Weissman case in return for Israel helping her obtain the position of chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, a devil’s bargain if there ever was one.

The case of Ben-Ami Kadish is in some ways even more intriguing than that of the two AIPAC staffers.  Kadish was arrested in New Jersey in December 2008 for “conspiracy to disclose to the government of Israel documents related to the national defense of the United States and… that he participated in a conspiracy to act as an agent of the government of Israel.”  Kadish gave the same Israeli intelligence officer who ran convicted spy Jonathan Pollard classified documents that he had obtained while working at the US Army Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center at Picatinny Arsenal in Dover, New Jersey.  Some of the documents were related to nuclear weapons development while others described highly classified aspects of the Patriot anti-missile defense system.  Israel subsequently developed its own Arrow anti-missile system, possibly using classified information relating to the Patriot, thereby reducing its own costs and enabling it to market the Arrow internationally at a lower price than its US competitors, eliminating American jobs.

Ben-Ami Kadish was arrested in December but released on bail. He was supposed to reappear before Judge Douglas Eaton at the US District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan two months later in February, but did not actually reappear until June.  He was fined and given a suspended sentence, a slap on the wrist considerably less painful than a local businessman cheating on his income tax might have received in the same courtroom.

And there is a current spy case involving Israel which clearly is being swept under the rug.  Stewart Nozette, a scientist working for the US government, was arrested on October 19th and charged with conspiring to commit espionage.  Nozette was caught in an FBI sting operation in which the Bureau officer pretended to be an Israeli Mossad spy.  Nozette enthusiastically embraced the offer to cooperate, demanding in return an Israeli passport and money for the information that he would provide.  The US media quickly went into damage mode, the New York Times headlining its coverage “The Scientist Who Mistook Himself for a Spy.” Many in the media quickly noted that the FBI agent was not actually Mossad, meaning that Israel was not directly involved.  The convenient spin ignored the fact the Nozette told the agent that he had already “communicated classified information” to Israel for many years through contacts in the Israel Aerospace Industries, for which he received $225,000.  Nozette stated that he believed he had already been spying for Israel, telling the pretend Mossad but really FBI officer “I thought I was working for you already.”  

So what has happened to Nozette, who, according to the court papers, “had regular, frequent access to classified information and documents related to the US national defense”?  Well, as in the case of Ben-Ami Kadish, he seems to have disappeared.  The media has dropped the story and Nozette did not appear again in court on November 10th as scheduled.  He may have been consigned to that limbo where those who spy for Israel seem to wind up prior to being released.  The Federal District Court for the District of Columbia’s website is giving nothing away.  Nozette’s name does not appear anywhere and if one calls the court clerk and requests information on his status, the call will not be returned. 

The point is that if Congress and the Justice Department think that when Americans are caught spying for Israel it is constitutionally protected activity, like free speech, perhaps they should say so publicly.  A two-tier system relating to national security issues and rule of law is just not in the US national interest, no matter how one twists the facts.  If you spy for Israel the consequences should be the same as if you spy for China or Cuba – arrest, conviction, and hard jail time.  No exceptions, no excuses.

Read more by Philip Giraldi


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