US Policy Of “Destroy And Rebuild”

No amount of international aid is enough to catalyze genuine reconstruction in Gaza. 

Who will undo the mass exodus, destruction of properties, pain, trauma, and systematic abuses, as civilians become “fair game” in a show of military might between two rivals?

First, you arm your ally to the fullest to destroy a territory to the ground and then you promise to rebuild it from the ashes. Makes no sense, does it? Now that the guns are silent, many have come forward to help “rebuild” Gaza. While some have decided not to get involved at all, others like UAE wants to help but under specific terms. But US President Joe Biden stole the show when he shamelessly said, “There is no shift in my commitment to the security of Israel. Period. No shift, not at all. But I’ll tell you where the shift is. We still need a two-state solution. It is the only answer.” 

This reminds me of an old speech by former US President Truman. He said, “It is my responsibility to see that our policy in Israel fits in with our policy throughout the world; second, it is my desire to help build in Palestine a strong, prosperous, free and independent democratic state. It must be large enough, free enough, and strong enough to make its people self-supporting and secure.” 

Two words – “Israel” and “Palestine” – did not fit well in the same sentence then. The second half of Truman’s commitment speech was compromised to keep the first half intact. Successive administrations have efficiently followed this legacy. So, Biden’s speech is just old wine in a new bottle. 

Israel has been the largest receiver of US foreign assistance since WWII. Israel’s technological superiority in terms of arms over others has always been the US’s top agenda. 

According to the Congressional Research Service, to date, the US has provided $146 billion in bilateral assistance and missile defense funding to Israel. Economic assistance (grants, loans, and surplus commodities) soon became military assistance (weapons grants). 

At first, until after the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Israel did not receive any grant of military assistance from the US. The direct aid received post World War II was also in small amounts. But things began to change after 1973 when Israel received more than $120 billion in assistance, including three special aid packages. 

The first package (1979) followed the signing of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, the second (1985) followed a severe economic crisis in Israel and the third (1996) was to help Israel fight terrorism. Israel was also designated as a “major non-NATO ally” in 1998. The following years saw the ebb and flow in special US allocations, guarantees, and military assistance. 

However, soon the military assistance to Israel started to grow steadily. In 2009, it was $2.55 billion, which increased to $2.70 billion in 2010. In 2011, it further increased to $2.85 billion and in 2012, it was $3 billion. From 2013-2018, the US-backed military assistance package became $3.15 billion per year. In 2016, the Obama administration had signed a new 10-year “security assistance” MoU with Israel for FY19-FY28 but PM Netanyahu was not satisfied with the package – $38 billion in military aid – and wanted more. What the previous MoUs did not have is missile defense funding. 

Under the terms of this new MoU, the administration pledged to request $500 million in annual combined funding for joint US-Israeli missile defense programs like Iron Dome, Arrow II and Arrow III, and David’s Sling. 

This was taken to another level by the Trump administration when he announced that it would be adding an additional $75 million to the MoU in September 2016. Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME) over its neighboring militaries has been skillfully maintained by the US over the years. Since its creation in 2011, the US has given $1.6 billion to Israel for Iron Dome batteries, interceptors, co-production costs, and general maintenance. 

“What’s the use of fixing the damage with the $235 million when you are destroying it with the $38 billion military funding?”

Anas Haroon, a filmmaker and 3D artist whose animation has sparked solidarity among many, believes one does not have to be a Muslim or Palestinian to do the right thing, to speak up against Israel’s colonial project. 

 

“What’s the use of fixing the damage with the $235 million aid when you are destroying it with the $38 billion military funding? the artist says. 

235 million seconds is 7.45 years and 38 billion seconds is 1204.9 years, let that settle in the “Land of the Free”, Haroon adds. 

There is no end-use monitoring or any other means to establish transparent transfer practices when it comes to weapons.

From smoke to smother

After all these plus $3.8 billion military aid from the US every year, Israel still plans to ask for an additional $1 billion from the US for replenishing the Iron Dome. Biden had promised to help Israel replenish its Iron Dome missile defense system and upgrade its system. Meanwhile, he also pledged to offer humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip by partnering with the Palestinian Authority and not Hamas. 

The Israeli Iron Dome missile defense system (L) intercepts rockets (R) fired by the Hamas movement towards southern Israel from Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip as seen in the sky above the Gaza Strip overnight on May 14, 2021. (Photo by ANAS BABA / AFP) (Photo by ANAS BABA/AFP via Getty Images)

It won’t be a smooth process due to the Fatah-Hamas rivalry since the 2006 Palestinian legislative election, which ended Fatah’s dominance. Armed conflict and the failure to form a unity government have divided the Palestinian leadership since 2007, with the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority governing the West Bank and Hamas governing the Gaza Strip. 

Offering to help is welcome but for once, Palestinians should be allowed to take charge of their future and development. 

By now the global community should have learned from the failure of the so-called Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism, which is designed to address Israel’s security concerns while allowing the entry of construction materials into the Gaza Strip for construction projects. 

For long-term recovery of what Gaza has been through, the blockade must be lifted. In 2015, Oxfam International had estimated that undoing the damage of the wars in Gaza could take more than a century if the blockade remains.

The fact that we are talking about a self-avowed Zionist, who has attended many pro-Israeli lobby group meetings, is self-explanatory. Joe Biden has been a long-standing supporter of Israel. Suspecting that Saudi Arabia could pose a major threat to Israel, he even opposed arms sales to Saudi Arabia back in 1986. 

“It’s about time we stop apologizing for our support for Israel…It is the best $3 billion investment we make. If there weren’t an Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interests in the region.”

Even though he labeled most of Trump’s pro-Israeli policies as “destructive”, he did not make much of a change there. Biden had dismissed Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018 as “short-sighted and frivolous”. But after becoming the President also he did not shift the embassy back to Tel Aviv. He did not reverse Israel’s settlement policy on the West Bank. 

On June 5, 1986, Biden, then US Senator, had defended Israel by saying, “It’s about time we stop apologizing for our support for Israel…It is the best $3 billion investment we make. If there weren’t an Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interests in the region.”

Biden’s election campaign website shows a full list of his support shown to Israel over the years.

Even after writing a blank check for weapons to Israel, the US always enters at the end of the show – after all damage is done – with its “noble values act” to seize the day. 

The US President says he supports the two-state solution but refuses to leverage US aid to Israel to make it abide by international law. “But the idea that we would cut off military aid to an ally, our only true, true ally in the entire region, is absolutely preposterous,” Biden said in an interview. 

Break the status quo

Unequivocal US support for Israel has become a subject of debate among the Republican and Democratic parties. Some Democrats have become more vocal about cutting Israel’s foreign assistance. 

When Israel considered annexing part of the West Bank, a number of Democratic lawmakers signaled their opposition. 

Through the Arms Export Control Act, Congress can block a planned arms sale through a joint resolution of disapproval. It takes a simple majority to pass that but it would take a two-thirds majority in each chamber to override a presidential veto.

Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Senator, had said the US should “leverage” its billions of dollars in annual Israeli aid. He went on: “My solution is to say to Israel: ‘You get $3.8 billion every year. If you want military aid, you’re going to have to fundamentally change your relationship to the people of Gaza.’ In fact, I think it is fair to say that some of that should go right now into humanitarian aid.”

 

Recently, the progressive senator also introduced a resolution blocking a $735m weapons sale to Israel. He said it would simply fuel the conflict. 

Others who introduced a similar resolution to stop the arms sale include Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. 

Meanwhile, Congresswoman Cori Bush tweeted: “My colleagues are rushing to give the Israeli military another billion dollars to fund apartheid, meanwhile our education system, our health care system, our housing system all remain underfunded. Our communities need that $1 billion. Send it to us instead.” 

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace says “leading progressive Democrats are calling for the Biden administration to center values in its policy toward Israel and Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking”.   

 

It is hard to say if all the effort to stop the arms sale will have any chance of passing Congress. But there has been a shift with Democrats now questioning US taxpayers’ dollars being used to terrorize Palestinians living under military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This leaves a bit of hope that maybe future sales of US weapons to Israel will be scrutinized and the people would not be blindsided by the US government. 

“It’s a shame that in 2021 we are struggling to fight for justice given all the developments and tools we have access to,” Anas Haroon says. 

Kosovo gained independence from Serbia when I was 9 years old and South Sudan gained independence from Sudan when I was 12. Hence why should I back down at the age of 22 when I can contribute to the Palestinian cause? he asks.

All said and done, repairing Gaza means looking at years of damage. The price of urban warfare is very high. Nobody can undo the mass exodus, the lives lost, properties reduced to rubble, the systematic abuses, the pain, or the trauma as civilians become “fair game” in a show of military might between two rivals. No amount of international aid is enough to catalyze genuine reconstruction in Gaza. 

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