By Jeff Abramson
It looks like the next step in Middle East peace includes an offer of 20 F-35 fighter jets if Israel will agree to a 90-day freeze on new construction activities in disputed areas. That’s one next-generation combat aircraft per 4.5 days. From the Israeli perspective, that’s a deal likely too good to pass up.
Sadly, it’s difficult to be optimistic that the roughly $3-billion bribe will lead to agreement on borders, but let us hope so. This kind of arms-for-peace approach continues to raise questions about the Obama (and previous) administrations’ path to stability in the region through an influx of weapons.
Israel is already the top recipient of U.S. foreign military financing (FMF). Washington’s policy to support Israel’s qualitative military advantage has led to $23.6 billion in total FMF during fiscal years 2000 to 2009, more than the rest of the world combined. Plus, Israel has already made a deal to receive 20 F-35s when they are scheduled to become available mid-decade. It’s simply hard to fathom how yet another 20 of these fighter jets is necessary for Israel’s internal security, especially if they are delivered at a time when we’re hoping to have resolved the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
When we get to talking about $3 billion for 90 days of what can only be called a risky bet, we have to ask whether those funds could be better spent. How about putting that money toward development projects, or a fund to pay for formerly Palestinian property (in hopes of resolving “right of return” issues), or a joint pot of money that can only be spent with approval from Israeli and Palestinian leaders as an incentive for cooperation, or a number of other imaginable uses that would give people who have lived in conflict the hope of living without it.
Let’s at least ask whether 4.5 days per jet fighter is the right formula.