Monday, September 17, 2018

After Cutting All UNWRA Humanitarian Aid, US to Award Israel with $3.3B/Year in Military Aid

By Whitney Webb - September 17, 2018 at 10:36AM

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A massive spending bill, which would deliver $3.3 billion dollars in military aid to Israel over the next year, passed the House on Wednesday under cover of a media blackout. The US Senate had passed a different version of the same bill in early August, a vote that also went largely unreported.

Now, after the House’s passage of a slightly altered version of the Senate’s spending bill, officially titled the “Ileana Ros-Lehtinen United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018,” all that remains is for the two chambers of Congress to reconcile their versions before the product is sent to President Trump’s desk to be signed into law. According to Skopos Labs, the bill now has a 90 percent chance of being enacted. If enacted, the bill will be the largest aid package in American history.

As MintPress previously reported, $3.3 billion was supposed to be the annual limit for US military aid to Israel. However, the figure is actually set to be higher this year as a result of Congress’ recent passage of a massive $716 billion defense bill that provides an additional $550 million in US aid for Israeli missile defense systems. That defense bill also authorizes an additional $1 billion for US weapons stockpiles in Israel.

Furthermore, the $3.3 billion in annual aid is set to continue for the next decade based on the current text of the bill and the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding between Israel and the Obama administration — totaling over $38 billion over the next decade when accounting for annual military aid and annual aid given specifically to fund Israeli missile defense.

That startling figure roughly equates to $23,000 for every Jewish family living in Israel.

In addition to the massive sum the legislation would give to the Israeli military, the bill would also mandate that NASA closely cooperate with the Israel Space Agency (ISA), despite the latter’s history of espionage targeting NASA.

The massive amount of aid the US government is set to give to Israel comes amid Israel’s unprecedented crackdown on unarmed protesters in the Gaza Strip and a looming Israeli military operation aimed at “conquering” the Palestinian enclave. The aid package’s imminent package is also set to coincide with efforts to annex the vast majority of Palestine’s West Bank, which has been militarily occupied by Israel since 1967.

As MintPress noted in a previous report, such grave violations of human rights would normally prevent the US government from providing aid to Israel, given that the Leahy Laws enable the US to withhold military assistance from units and individuals in foreign security forces if they have committed a gross violation of human rights.

However, the US government – particularly under the rabidly pro-Israel administration of President Trump, which just last week cut all funding for Palestinian humanitarian relief through UNRWA – has consistently shown that it is willing to bend the rules for Israel.

Congress waves the Israeli flag

The $3.3 billion military aid package was only one of the bills passed by the House that is set to benefit Israel. Another bill, which has also been largely overlooked by the media, would seek to create a special government envoy tasked with monitoring “anti-Semitism” and criticism of Israel worldwide.

According to the text of the bill – officially titled the “Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act of 2017” – the envoy would “serve as the primary advisor to, and coordinate efforts across, the United States government relating to monitoring and combating anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic incitement that occur in foreign countries,” and have the rank of ambassador. Only two members of the House voted against the bill: Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) and Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA).

While an effort to combat “anti-Semitism” is a noble cause, the recent endorsement of a controversial definition of the term by Congress, which defines certain criticisms of the state of Israel as anti-Semitic, makes it likely that any envoy appointed to this position would be focused on clamping down on domestic and international criticisms of the Israeli government.

Given the potential dangers that such a position could pose to free speech, not just in the US but abroad, it is surprising that this bill’s passage by an overwhelming majority received next to no media attention. Yet, in light of the media blackout also surrounding the imminent approval of the US massive aid package to the Israeli military, it is perhaps not so surprising.

Reprinted with permission from MintPressNews.

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