Eli Lake reports: Elliott Abrams — a former deputy national security adviser to President George W. Bush and a leading pro-Israel writer and policy analyst — told The Daily Beast, “My view is over time it would be healthy for the relationship if the aid diminished. Israel should be less dependent on American financial assistance and should become the kind of ally that we have in Australia, Canada, or the United Kingdom: an intimate military relationship and alliance, but no military aid.”
That is also the view expressed by leading Israeli politicians. Naftali Bennett, Israel’s minister of economics and the leader of the right-wing Israel Home party, said in 2013, “Today, U.S. military aid is roughly 1 percent of Israel’s economy. I think, generally, we need to free ourselves from it. We have to do it responsibly, since I’m not aware of all the aspects of the budget. I don’t want to say, ‘Let’s just give it up,’ but our situation today is very different from what it was 20 and 30 years ago.”
Today Israel is prosperous. In 2000, the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was $124.9 billion. In 2013, the Israeli GDP was $291.3 billion. And that is before Israel has seen any real revenue from the fields of natural gas it recently discovered. The country has become so prosperous that legislation is now before the country’s Knesset to create a sovereign wealth fund, a state-owned investment vehicle designed to invest the surplus revenue Israel collects from selling its natural gas.
“I have heard discussions of a sovereign wealth fund, by which the Israelis mean they want to handle the revenues carefully the way Norway does and not waste them,” Abrams said. “But I do not believe a country that has a sovereign wealth fund can be an aid recipient.”
Abrams was careful to say he did not favor cutting the military aid while Obama was still president. “Were there a reduction now, it would be attributed to administration hostility to Israel and be seen as a weakening of U.S. support,” he said. “It should be done only in a context of robust American political support and close relations between American and Israeli leaders.” [Continue reading…]