Obama, Romney, and military aid to Israel

If President Obama is reelected, it will mean four more years of the US and Israel at loggerheads, whereas Mitt Romney's support is unfeigned and deep.

"May God bless America, and may He bless and protect the Nation of Israel" (Governor Mitt Romney, Republican candidate for president of the US, Jerusalem, July 29, 2012).

With this extraordinary declaration, Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts and Republican candidate for the presidency in November's elections in the United States, gave the most ringing endorsement of Israel of any US president or presidential candidate since Harry Truman went against almost his entire cabinet and the "special relationship" with Great Britain, and recognized the independence of Israel in 1948.

Gov. Romney's campaign team is filled with supporters of Israel, and there can be no doubt that, if he is elected, his administration will treat Israel as a special and honored friend and ally. He would be the first Mormon president of the US, and the Mormons have a special regard and concern for the Israelis, in the same way many evangelical Christians do. It should be noted that this is no new attitude on the part of Romney. He has a long history of taking pro-Israel positions. It is significant that the speech was entirely lacking in the usual scolding of Israel by US politicians because of the lack of a final settlement with the Palestinians.

The is significant not only for the obvious reasons, since at this point the election would appear to be close, but for two additional reasons, one well-known and the other perhaps less so. If Gov. Romney wins, he will be replacing the least pro-Israel president ever. It can be said in fact that President Obama is a strong supporter of multiple policy positions contrary to Israeli policy and interests.

The reelection of President Obama, certainly a possibility, would ensure four more years of the two countries being at loggerheads, and that brings up the second reason why this election is so important. When I was asked by an Israeli think-tank to look into the Israeli defense budget a year ago, I was struck by the fact that it was based on the assumption that US military assistance would continue for the foreseeable future at more or less current levels. This appeared to me then, as now, a dangerous assumption. The fiscal situation of the United States is very bad. There are and will be significant efforts to reduce those items considered "non-essential" and foreign aid is certainly one of them. Aid to Israel is an important item, and thus an obvious target for reduction or, eventually, even elimination. It should be noted that aid to Israel and Egypt, two of the largest aid items, is expressed as a ratio of one to the other, so that one way to reduce assistance to Israel by the back door, so to speak, would be to reduce the amount allocated to Egypt.

This fact underscores the urgency of finding other sources of defense financing, as mentioned in a previous article in this series. It also underscores the importance of the election in November. An Obama government can be counted on to try to find ways to reduce aid to Israel on budgetary grounds. A Romney administration could be counted on to maintain such assistance at current levels or perhaps even higher.

In this regard, I can do no better than to quote Gov. Romney again: "No individual, no nation, no world organization [note the significance of this addition] will pry us apart. And as long as we stay together and stand together, there is no threat we cannot overcome and very little that we cannot achieve. "

To which we can only add "Amen and Amen".

Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft at The Institute of World Politics, Washington, DC, and a lecturer at The Israeli National Defense College (MABAL), 2011-2012 session.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on August 1, 2012

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2012

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