Fifty billion dollars. That is the eye-popping value of weapons Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE will reportedly ask President Obama for during their White House meeting today.
To put this staggering amount into perspective, this represents nearly half of all U.S. economic and military assistance to Israel — both grants and loans — provided over the first 60 years of the country's existence. It is a two-thirds increase above the George W. Bush administration's record-breaking agreement to give Israel $30 billion in weapons from 2009 to 2018.
It would place U.S. taxpayers on the hook for providing every Israeli man, woman and child with $600 worth of weapons each year from 2019 to 2028. And it would include an annual subsidy of more than $1.3 billion to the Israeli weapons industry under an exemption for Israel in current U.S. law which allows Israel to spend up to one-quarter of its U.S. military aid appropriation on its own domestic corporations (for all other countries receiving military aid from the U.S., 100 percent of the aid must be spent on U.S. weapons makers).
The United States currently underwrites 20 percent of Israel's military budget through annual earmarks of $3.1 billion in weapons. Netanyahu's request would make the United States responsible for funding one-third of Israel's entire current military budget of $15 billion.
This year alone, Netanyahu has race-baited his way to an electoral win by decrying the democratic participation of Palestinian citizens of Israel, furthered Israel's illegal colonization of Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, declared that no Palestinian state will arise on his watch, and affirmed that Israel will retain control of all Palestinian territory for the foreseeable future. In short, he has done everything in his power to hammer the final nail in the coffin of the U.S. policy goal of a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
And let's not forget that this year, as well, Netanyahu conspired with former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to circumvent the White House and address Congress for the explicit purpose of undermining the Obama administration's signal foreign policy accomplishment: the nuclear deal with Iran.
In light of Netanyahu's obstructionism of U.S. policy, only one word epitomizes the astronomical cap-in-hand request he brings today to the White House: chutzpah.
But the most galling aspect of Netanyahu's request is that it will make the United States even more deeply complicit in Israel's oppression of Palestinians. With Israel no longer even going through the motions of pretending to be committed to the establishment of a Palestinian state, and holding Palestinians under military occupation indefinitely, the country's brutal apartheid policies are undeniable.
By promising Israel as much as $50 billion in additional weapons over the next decade, the United States is dousing this fire with gasoline. How can the United States claim that it is still committed to promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace and the establishment of a Palestinian state while it arms Israel to the teeth to squelch it?
Congress weighed in last week on the recent bout of Israeli-Palestinian violence in its typical myopic and hopelessly one-sided perspective. On Monday, the House passed H.Res. 293 by voice vote, blaming Palestinian "incitement" as the determinative factor in the outbreak of violence while absolving Israel of its physical and verbal incitement against Palestinians. This reductionist resolution confused cause and symptom, neglecting the structural violence of Israel's policies.
As of Tuesday, 367 representatives had reportedly signed a letter to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accusing him directly of "inflam[ing] the current situation" through "abhorrent and deadly rhetoric." Also on Tuesday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced S.Res. 302, similarly castigating Abbas for the deterioration in Israeli-Palestinian relations.
But the days of Congress pressuring the Palestinian Authority into tamping down Palestinian resistance and collaborating with Israel as its security subcontractor are coming to an end. Abbas, whose term as Palestinian Authority president ended nearly seven years ago, is irrelevant to Palestinians protesting on the streets. And with the "peace process" having expired, the Palestinian Authority has long outlived its raison d'être.
The status quo cannot be maintained for long. Israel's hegemony over all of historic Palestine and its existence as an exclusivist state with rights for only some of the people over whom it rules is unraveling.
After Netanyahu's election this year, President Obama pledged that the United States would reassess its relations with Israel. Although he has not yet publicly implemented his pledge, his meeting with Netanyahu and the Israeli prime minister's request for $50 billion in weapons presents Obama with the perfect opportunity to do so. It is time for the United States to end its complicity in Israel's oppression of Palestinians.
Ruebner is policy director of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and author of the forthcoming book (and tentatively entitled) Israel: Democracy or Apartheid State?