Israel the Beggar Is Taking Potshots at the U.S.

Netanyahu’s lousy relations with Obama are going to cost us hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid and severe damage to the IDF.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, left, looks on as U.S. President Barack Obam aspeaks in the Oval Office of the White House, on March 3, 2014.
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

That Obama’s really annoying. He thinks he can toy with us about military aid forever. He just keeps leading us by the nose but he doesn’t close the deal. If he goes on this way, we won’t give him a penny – we’ll wait for the next president. And if the next one also doesn’t behave, we’ll just wait for the one after that. Who do these Americans think they are? That we’ll just give them the money, come what may?

Oh, wait a second, it’s the other way round. We’re the ones who need the American aid. We’re the ones begging to increase military funding from $3 billion a year to $4 billion.

How is it that the beggar is taking potshots at the master? Has he lost his mind?

As far as Benjamin Netanyahu is concerned, this mode of behavior makes sense. He, the beggar, supported Mitt Romney the Republican against Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential race. That was a big gamble, and it failed.

Then, Netanyahu went and named Ron Dermer, a former Republican activist, as ambassador to Washington, which is roughly akin to poking Obama in the eye with a stick. Dermer has long since become persona non grata in the corridors of power in Washington and the damage to Israel has been immense.

Then Netanyahu promised Obama that he would advance the two-state solution. In practice he did the exact opposite, blowing up the talks with the Palestinian Authority's Abu Mazen due to non-fulfillment of the fourth part of the process outlined in the agreement with him.

And after that, Netanyahu did something that no other head of state has dared to do: He addressed Congress and spoke out against the sitting president, on the nuclear deal with Iran. Israel had the right to oppose the agreement, but who pisses on the carpet in the Oval Office?

And then, moments before the accord with Tehran was signed, Netanyahu rejected a generous offer from Obama to increase American aid to Israel to $4 billion a year, as compensation. Here Netanyahu lost twofold: Not only did he fail to prevent the agreement with Iran, he lost the opportunity to increase U.S. aid to Israel significantly.

And now Obama is slowly, coolly cooking up his revenge. Aid isn’t going to be $4 billion a year. It is going to be a lot less. The Israeli army will lose hundreds of millions of dollars in support, and money that could have been freed up for education, welfare and infrastructure, won’t be.

Moreover, now the vengeful Obama is demanding that any amount given to Israel be spent entirely in the United States. Previously, we could spend up to 26 percent of the funds to purchase materiel from Israel's military industries.

The new demand translates into a huge loss of $780 million a year for Israel’s defense industries – a death blow. Moreover, Obama asserts that the sum he's offering is final and absolute; no additions along the road, as had been the practice so far.

His revenge is continuing. On Thursday, Congress approved a $636-million budget for Israel, to finance advanced missile-interception systems (Iron Dome, Magic Wand and Arrow) – but now the president is proposing to earmark only $180 million. So it isn’t clear when we will get what.

But Netanyahu follows his own star. Even now he feels he taught Obama a lesson. The prime minister is ignoring the fact that the Israel Defense Forces’ entire advantage and its power rely on the amount of aid from and the goodwill of the United States when it comes to selling us the most advanced fighter jets in the world, engines for our Merkava tanks, financing for the Arrow and also, to sharing secrets with us in the realms of intelligence, science and technology.

Even now, before the final agreement is signed, it is clear that Netanyahu’s lousy relations with Obama are going to cost us hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 10 years, and cause severe damage to the holy of holies: the might and quality of the IDF. His gamble was irresponsible and has hurt Israel's security.

The beggar indeed seems to have gone barking mad.