By Hamdan Azhar
File: Congressman Ron Paul, grants press interviews after holding a rally outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, April 22, 2012. REUTERS/Mark Makela
Earlier this month, the House of Representatives quietly passed a bill that critics insist guarantees unlimited military aid to the government of Israel. HR 4133, dubbed the â€œUnited States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012,â€ makes it â€œthe policy of the United States to help Israel preserve its qualitative military edgeâ€ and â€œto provide Israel the military capabilities necessary to deter and defend itself by itself against any threats.â€
The bill passed by a vote of 411-2 with nine members voting â€œpresent.â€ The two â€œnoâ€ votes were cast by Texas Congressman and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul and Congressman John Dingell (D-Mich.), former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the longest currently serving member of Congress.
Paul assailed the bill for being â€œone-sidedâ€ and â€œcounter-productiveâ€ and argued that it weakened the Americaâ€™s claims of being an honest broker seeking peace in the Middle East. He also took issue with the billâ€™s statement that U.S. policy should be to defend â€œthe security of Israel as a Jewish state.â€
â€œAccording to our Constitution,â€ argued Paul, â€œthe policy of the United States government should be to protect the security of the United States, not to guarantee the religious, ethnic, or cultural composition of a foreign country.â€
Philip Giraldi, the former CIA counter-terrorism analyst, slammed the secretive bill for â€œprovid[ing] Israel with a blank check drawn on the U.S. taxpayerâ€ and suggested that the true intent was to support Israelâ€™s membership in NATO. â€œIf Israel becomes part of NATO,â€ he said, â€œthe U.S. and other members will be obligated to come to the aid of a nation that is expanding its borders and is currently engaged in hostilities with three of its neighbors.â€
The Houseâ€™s passing of HR 4133 comes on the heels of the release of the House Republicansâ€™ proposed 2013 defense authorization bill, which contains $1 billion for Israeli anti-missile defense systems, in addition to the $3 billion Israel currently receives annually in U.S. military aid.
Critics also fear that the bill, with its militant anti-Iran rhetoric, brings the United States closer to war. Ron Paul was explicit in his projection that the measure would â€œmore likely lead to war against Syria, Iran, or both.â€ Rep. David Price (D-N.C.), despite voting in favor of the bill, shared these reservations. â€œThis bill gives little weight or emphasis to critical diplomatic and economic measures,â€ he observed, â€œand at points comes perilously close to signaling intent or support for the military option.â€
The bill also seems to disparage the Arab Spring and uses it as a justification for greater U.S. intervention in the Middle East. â€œOver the past year,â€ Section 2 reads, â€œthe Middle East has witnessed the fall of some regimes long considered to be stabilizing forces and a rise in the influence of radical Islamists.â€ Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who voted â€œpresent,â€ expressed incredulity, asking â€œDo we really mean to express concern over the loss of despots like Mubarak and Gaddafi?â€
Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), the freshman congressman often lauded for his constitutional conservatism, voted for the bill and came under heavy criticism on his Facebook page. â€œThis is constitutional in connection with Congressâ€™s power to raise and support Armies,â€ argued Amash, a defense that was quickly rejected by most constituents. â€œItâ€™s constitutional to financially support foreign armies? What Constitution are you reading?â€
Many commentators expressed disappointment at the misallocation of resources inherent in the resolution. â€œIt downright appalling to cut a billion dollars from Meals on Wheels and lunches for our poor kids and give the money to Israel,â€ said one woman. Others expressed surprise at the fundamental violation of the non-aggression principle. â€œWhy do you use government force to take money from my pay check to send to their military? You donâ€™t see that as unethical?â€
The strong bipartisan support for unconditional military aid to Israel further suggests that the narrative of two diametrically opposed political parties is largely a myth. As Glenn Greenwald, among others, have eloquently pointed out, the most odious government policies in effect today â€“ â€œcovert endless wars, consolidation of unchecked power, the rapid growth of the Surveillance State and the secrecy regime, massive inequalities in the legal system, continuous transfers of wealth from the disappearing middle class to large corporate conglomeratesâ€ â€“ are almost fully bipartisan in nature.
Meanwhile, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) â€” which was reportedly extensively involved in drafting the legislation â€” expressed pleasure at the billâ€™s passing. In a statement quoted in the Jerusalem Post, AIPAC called for increased U.S.-Israeli co-operation in the fields of â€œmissile defense, homeland security, energy, intelligence, and cyber security.â€
Update (Sun May 28, 11pm EST): According to a post on his Facebook page this evening, Congressman Justin Amash has reconsidered his support for HR 4133. While continuing to insist that the bill does not constitute additional funding for Israel, he suggests that he would not vote for the bill again if given the chance. Rep. Amash had faced heavy criticism from his supporters over the past few days.
â€œI have reconsidered my support for any bill like H.R. 4133, as it pertains to ANY country, in the future…I believe that the U.S. should not extend credit (or aid) to another country on an ongoing basis through legislation. Itâ€™s time for the U.S. to stop acting as a bank to the rest of the world.â€