• Friday, October 31, 2014

Israel gets boost from US, UK

US Congress okays $225m fresh aid to strengthen Israel's anti-missile defence system

Star Report

When musician Brian Eno saw a picture of a Palestinian man carrying the remains of his dead son in a plastic bag, he was moved to write a an open letter to his American friends, asking them to explain their country's unconditional support for Israel.

“Why does America continue its blind support of this one-sided exercise in ethnic cleansing? Why?”

While Israel comes in for harsh criticism in many parts of the world for the Gaza onslaught that so far killed more than a thousand Palestinians, including nearly 300 children, the US and the UK reiterate their supports for the Jewish state.

The United States is Israel's chief backer at the United Nations, where it routinely blocks Security Council resolutions condemning the Jewish state.

Washington has funnelled more than $100 billion in aid to Israel since its formation in 1948, and consistently provides its chief Mideast ally with up-to-the minute weaponry.

Money to Israel flows through Congress largely uncontested.

The US Congress on Friday approved $225 million for Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile defence system, credited with destroying missiles fired by Hamas before they could reach their targets.

House of Representatives approved the funding by 395-8 in a late Friday vote. The Senate earlier approved the measure unanimously before the start of its five week summer recess, reports AFP.

The measure now awaits President Obama's signature.

The emergency spending funds, which adds to the US deficit, will restock Israel's Iron Dome system with interceptor missiles.

The funding is part of the administration's request of $3.1 billion for military assistance to Israel, the world's largest beneficiary of US foreign aid.

Congress appropriated $235 million to Iron Dome last year.

The White House had originally requested about $176 million for the system for 2015, but lawmakers increased the amount. Congress often increases funding for Israeli security projects sought by the president.

The added funding is needed immediately because Israel is “running out of Iron Dome missiles to protect themselves,” Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said on the Senate floor. Lawmakers can't say “we left Israel in a lurch,” he said.

Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel had asked Senate leaders on Israel's behalf to approve the funding for the US-funded Iron Dome. It would be used “to accelerate production of Iron Dome components in Israel to maintain adequate stockpiles,” Hagel said in a July 22 letter.

An agreement with Israel calls for more than half the funds the Pentagon provides for Iron Dome to be spent in the US Israel estimates that it would take two to three years to reach that full co-production capacity in the US, “which would not address Israel's current shortfall,” Hagel wrote.

Iron Dome, built by Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Ltd, is designed to intercept and destroy rockets capable of flying as far as 70 kilometres (43.5 miles).

Raytheon Co (RTN), based in Waltham, Massachusetts, is under contract with Haifa-based Rafael to find suitable US suppliers.

Speaking with reporters after the vote, Graham said congressional approval of the Iron Dome money sends a broader message to Israel, reports Bloomberg.

“Not only are we going to give you more missiles, we're going to be a better friend,” he said.

US politicians mired in Washington gridlock agree on virtually nothing these days. Nothing, it seems, apart from their unquestioned support for Israel.

In short, "America's got Israel's back," US National Security Advisor Susan Rice assured a gathering of Jewish leaders Monday in Washington.

"We've always had a truly special relationship."

The same could be said of the UK. The UK's political support is underpinned by its strong military relationship with Israel. In terms of exports, the UK has awarded almost £50m in military licences to Israel in the last five years, including £10m last year.

It seems likely that UK arms exports have played a direct role in the Israel-Palestine conflict. In 2009, David Miliband, then Foreign Secretary confirmed that Israeli equipment that had been used in Gaza in the 2008-9 conflict “almost certainly” contained UK-supplied components.

The relationship works in both directions, writes Andrew Smith, a spokesperson for Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), in the New Statesman's politics blog.

The Israeli arms industry is one of the most advanced in the world, with more than 200 arms companies and a government spend of $18.2 billion in the last year alone.

The Independent in an exclusive report wrote yesterday: the government has been accused of failing to regulate arms sales to Israel following evidence that weapons containing British-made components are being used in the bombardment of Gaza.

Documents shown to the newspaper reveal that arms export licences worth £42m have been granted to 130 British defence manufacturers since 2010 to sell military equipment to Israel. These range from weapons control and targeting systems to ammunition, drones and armoured vehicles.

Among the manufacturers given permission to make sales were two UK companies supplying components for the Hermes drone, described by the Israeli air force as the “backbone” of its targeting and reconnaissance missions. One of the two companies also supplies components for Israel's main battle tank.

The Hermes drone has been widely used during Operation Protective Edge, the ongoing Israeli military action in Gaza, to monitor Palestinians and guided missile strikes.

The Foreign Office said on Friday night it was investigating reports that Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, 23, was British born.

The Government said that it would review all outstanding export licences to Israel. But politicians and campaigners called on ministers to establish definitively whether UK-manufactured weapons or components have been used by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) in Gaza since hostilities began three weeks ago.

Labour MP Katy Clark told The Independent: “By refusing to investigate this vital question the British Government are trying to bury their heads in the sand. This is a shameful approach to take and frankly makes the Government look as if it has something to hide.

“The British public have the right to know the level of support which the United Kingdom has provided to the Israeli armed forces through arms sales.”

Israel is one of the biggest customers for British exports of so-called “dual-use” equipment capable of both civilian and military deployment in a trade worth more than £7bn last year.

But documents obtained by the CAAT under the Freedom of Information Act reveal for the first time the full extent of sales of military-only equipment, along with the names of the companies granted export licences by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). Of the £42m of so-called “military list” exports approved since 2010, some £10m has been licensed in the last 12 months.

The ongoing military collaboration and the sale of weapons are not apolitical moves, writes Andrew Smith. Arms deals don't just give Israel military support, they also bolster the Israeli government by sending out a strong message of political support.

Arms sales and military collaboration fuel the cycle of war. When a government sells weapons it can not absolve itself of responsibility for what happens when they are used.  That's why an immediate end to military co-operation and an embargo of all arms sales to and from Israel is essential.

Published: 12:01 am Sunday, August 03, 2014

Last modified: 9:56 pm Sunday, August 03, 2014

TAGS: United Nations Israel Security Council Gaza harsh criticism

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