On the 'US-Israel Enhanced Security Act'
The day before Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney began his recent 36-hour swing through Israel with Sheldon Adelson at his side, President Obama was signing the U.S.-Israel Enhanced Security Act (S 2165) in the Oval Office with representatives of the politically powerful AIPAC in attendance.
Adelson, a recipient of the 2008 Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship and multi-billionaire who made his fortune in Las Vegas casinos, has pledged $100 million to defeat Obama and is under investigation by the Department of Justice and the FBI for possible violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In a thinly veiled attempt to be recognized as Israel's newest best friend, Romney pulled out all the stops to prove his commitment with promises of increased U.S. aid -- promises that did not stop Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in a CNN interview just after Romney's departure from praising the Obama administration's support as unparalleled as compared to other U.S. presidents.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Goliath of influential lobbying organizations, is a pro-Israel advocacy group with unprecedented access to Congress, which has consistently underwritten AIPAC's political goals with taxpayer funds.
The new enhanced security law, which reads like an AIPAC brochure, would upgrade Israel's air refueling and its missile defense capabilities and munitions program as well as commit U.S. policy to "veto any one-sided anti-Israel resolution in the United Nations Security Council." It was approved by Congress in an uncharacteristic whirlwind of bipartisan support -- the same Congress that denies the nation's dispossessed citizens an extension of unemployment benefits or a moratorium on home foreclosures. In addition, the Jerusalem Post reported that the Act would expand U.S. military assistance on joint exercises and joint antimissile defense system while providing additional U.S. material (military) for storage in Israel to be used in the event of war.
Introduced on March 6th by Sen. Barbara Boxer with 72 Senate co-sponsors, the Act literally flew through Congress as it was adopted on a voice vote in the Senate on June 29th and by House on July 17th with Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tx) offering the sole opposition. The bill made it to the president's desk and was signed into law on July 27th. While Congress has exhibited no similar impetus to act on 16 million American children living in poverty -- as if an estimated 1.5 million homeless children were not a national priority -- it is worth noting that the Senate has adopted 21 percent of all Senate bills acted on by a Committee between 2009 - 2010.
At the same Oval Office event, the president took the opportunity to reiterate a commitment to a $70 million grant to Israel's short-range rocket defense system, known as Iron Dome, which will detect, track and intercept short-range rockets from Gaza and presumably Iran. In addition to $4 billion in annual U.S. military aid to Israel, the Congress has authorized over $1 billion specifically for Iron Dome since 2009 as a "taxpayer investment," according to the House Armed Services Committee report.
With no regard for another two million Americans who will lose unemployment benefits at the end of 2012, the Pentagon finalized a deal with Lockheed Martin for a $450 million sale to Israel for an integrated electronic systems in the F-35 joint strike fighter jet as part of a $15 billion package. The world's largest aviation project, the F35 has been estimated by the General Accounting Office to cost $112 million each and has been plagued by safety and operational problems. Despite a $16 trillion deficit and massive cost overrun concerns by the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2011, the Pentagon plans to purchase 2,443 planes spread across the Air Force, Navy and Marines over the next two decades.
In the campaign competition for tough talk, preserving the postal service or food stamps rates nary a mention as both presidential campaigns appear to have comparable positions on Iran with Romney declaring that "Iran must not be allowed to go nuclear" and that "no option should be excluded," presumably endorsing another devastating round of military action in the Middle East. Meanwhile, the president affirmed an "unshakeable commitment" with U.S. "cooperation at unprecedented levels" as Pentagon chief Leon Panetta, arriving in Israel immediately after Romney's departure, promised the U.S. will "not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons -- period." Panetta went on to suggest that if sanctions don't work, the U.S. is "fully prepared militarily."
As if the stars were fatally misaligned for peaceful purposes that same last Friday in July, the UN conference to negotiate an international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) unraveled after assertions that the latest treaty draft would inhibit U.S. foreign policy objectives to sell arms to strategic "allies such as Israel." The U.S. is Israel's most reliable supplier of conventional weapons estimated at $30 billion between 2000 and 2009.
As if all the above were not enough affliction on the prospects for peace, Reuters reported that President Obama, who had been criticized by Romney as slow to react in Syria, had signed a secret "intelligence finding" to supply the Syrian rebels with arms and equipment through Turkey. That news was followed by a New York Times article that the State Department and Pentagon are preparing transition plans to repeal previous U.S. sanctions against Syria in order to "allow investment to flow in and business to resume."