This is a talk given at the Nassau Club in Princeton by Chris Hedges, former New York Times Middle East bureau chief:
Israel, without the United States, would probably not exist. The country came perilously close to extinction during the October 1973 war when Egypt, trained and backed by the Soviet Union, crossed the Suez Canal and the Syrians poured in over the Golan Heights. Huge American military transport planes came to the rescue.
They began landing every half-hour to refit the battered Israeli army, which had lost most of its heavy armor. By the time the war as over, the United States had given Israel $2.2 billion in emergency military aid. The intervention, which enraged the Arab world, triggered the OPEC oil embargo that for a time wreaked havoc on Western economies. This was perhaps the most dramatic example of the sustained life-support system the United States has provided to the Jewish state.
Israel was born at midnight May 14, 1948. The U.S. Recognized the new state 11 minutes later. The two countries have been locked in a deadly embrace ever since.Washington, at the beginning of the relationship, was able to be a moderating influence. An incensed President Eisenhower demanded and got Israel’s withdrawal after the Israelis occupied Gaza in 1956.
During the Six-Day War in 1967, Israeli warplanes bombed the USS Liberty. The ship, flying the U.S. Flag and stationed 15 miles off the Israeli coast, was intercepting tactical and strategic communications from both sides. The Israeli strikes killed 34 U.S. Sailors and wounded 171.
The deliberate attack froze, for a while, Washington’s enthusiasm for Israel. But ruptures like this one proved to be only bumps, soon smoothed out by an increasingly sophisticated and well-financed Israel lobby that set out to merge Israel and American foreign policy in the Middle East.
Israel has reaped tremendous rewards from this alliance. It has been given more than $140 billion in U.S. Direct economic and military assistance. It receives about $3 billion in direct assistance annually, roughly one-fifth of the U.S. Foreign aid budget. Although most American foreign aid packages stipulate that related military purchases have to be made in the United States, Israel is allowed to use about 25 percent of the money to subsidize its own growing and profitable defense industry. It is exempt, unlike other nations, from accounting for how it spends the aid money.