Zeroing out foreign assistance not only represents a heartless disregard for humanity (no more health and education programs for the struggling corners of the world), but imperils key relationships and harms our ability to advance American interests. Without any thought or consultation, the Republican candidates would unilaterally tear up existing agreements, forcing the United States to rework the complex and committed relationships we have with almost every single nation.
Take Israel. In 2007, the United States and Israel signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for $30 billion in aid spread over 10 years.
The MOU serves a number of purposes: ensuring that Israel maintains its top-notch defense capabilities against very real threats like Hezbollah, Hamas, and Iran; strengthens and deepens our security and economic relationship with one of our key allies in the world; and because of the MOU’s requirement that most of the assistance funds be spent on goods and services in the United States, it creates jobs and supports the economy right here at home.
At a time of enormous change and instability from one side of the Middle East to the other, when regional terrorist groups still pose a deadly threat and Iran gets closer to producing a nuclear weapon, the Republican candidates for president want to tear up a fundamental agreement with one of our closest friends and ally, and instead make Israel “start from zero” every single year.
Rather than relying on the stability and assurance that comes from long-term agreements, Romney, Perry, and Gingrich want to make assistance to Israel entirely subjective year to year, imperiling its security and leaving Israel in the dark about whether it can count on the United States’ support in the long run. Ditto to every other nation with whom we have existing agreements.
In a shameless bid for Jewish votes, Republicans love to complain that President Obama is “anti-Israel.” Mitt Romney even accused the President of “throwing Israel under the bus” for articulating the same peace policies espoused by Israel’s political leaders. But now the same Mitt Romney – or is it a different one, it’s hard to tell from one day to the next? – now wants to sever all aid to Israel.
The Republican candidates seem to believe that the world’s superpower should not partner with our friends and allies to better people’s lives and stave off war and conflict. Instead of sending a positive message about American generosity, democratic values, and commitment to freedom, security, and global prosperity, the Republicans have a different message: No cake for you, not even bread.
Congressman Alcee L. Hastings represents the 23rd Congressional district of Florida. He is a senior member of the House Rules Committee, Ranking Democratic Member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and Democratic Chairman of the Florida Delegation.