The Irrationality of Punishing Israel by Withholding Aid

Oct. 31 2019

Recently several Democratic presidential candidates have raised the possibility of withholding American financial assistance to the Jewish state to induce it to make policy changes. Such a move, notes Michael Koplow, wouldn’t be unprecedented—both George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan did so. To Koplow, however, cutting aid would likely “create more problems than it solves”:

Conditioning aid to Israel is a mess from a policy perspective. If it is intended as a way of punishing Israeli behavior, then it downgrades a vitally important defense and intelligence relationship for the purposes of making a values statement.

If U.S. assistance to Israel were an issue existential to Israel’s survival, that would create a different calculus, but as valuable and important as $3.8 billion in annual security assistance is to Israel, the country would be able to live without it.

Even if conditioning security assistance were to work in changing Israeli behavior in the West Bank, it would still bring a potential unintended outcome of greater casualties on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides. If withholding security assistance means less money for Iron Dome batteries, for instance, it makes larger numbers of Israeli civilian casualties a certainty when rockets are shot from Gaza, which in turn makes an Israeli ground invasion and exponentially higher Palestinian casualties just as certain. . . . While such an outcome is not the aim of those who advocate conditioning aid, it may come about nonetheless.

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Read more at Israel Policy Forum

More about: George H. W. Bush, Israeli Security, Ronald Reagan, US-Israel relations

Why the Leader of Hamas Went to Russia

Sept. 30 2022

Earlier this month, the Hamas chairman Ismail Haniyeh and several of his colleagues visited Moscow, where they met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other Russian officials. According to Arabic-language media, Haniyeh came seeking “new ideas” about how to wage war against the Jewish state. The terrorist group has had good relations with the Kremlin for several years, and even maintains an office in Moscow. John Hardie and Ivana Stradner comment on the timing of the visit:

For Moscow, the visit likely reflects a continuation of its efforts to leverage the Palestinians and other issues to pressure Israel over its stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russia and Israel built friendly relations in the decades following the Soviet Union’s dissolution. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Jerusalem condemned the war, but made sure to tread carefully in order to preserve working ties with Moscow, lest Russian military forces in Syria disrupt Israel’s strategically important air operations there.

Nevertheless, bilateral tensions spiked in April after Yair Lapid, then serving as Israel’s foreign minister, joined the chorus of voices worldwide accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine. Jerusalem later provided Kyiv with some non-lethal military aid and a field hospital. In response, Moscow hardened its rhetoric about Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian issue isn’t the only way that Russia has sought to pressure Israel. Moscow is also threatening, on seemingly spurious grounds, to shutter the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency.

Moscow likely has little appetite for outright conflict with Israel, particularly when the bulk of Russia’s military is floundering in Ukraine. But there are plenty of other ways that Russia, which maintains an active intelligence presence in the Jewish state, could damage Israel’s interests. As Moscow cozies up with Hamas, Iran, and other enemies of Israel, Jerusalem—and its American allies—would do well to keep a watchful eye.

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Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Hamas, Israeli Security, Russia