More money, more problems: a look at the implications of the Naval Vessel Transfer Act of 2008, Pub. L. No. 110-429, [section] 201, 122 Stat. 4842 (2008) on U.S.-Israeli relations.

AuthorMarandola, Marissa L.

    "[P]eace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none...." (2) There is an exception to every rule, and as such, the exception to this rule comes in the form of the relationship between the United States and Israel. (3) For decades, the United States has considered Israel their "beacon of hope" in an otherwise violent and war-torn Middle East, and has stood by Israel providing substantial aid, militarily and otherwise, throughout the years. (4) Military aid to Israel has not waivered, and even today, Israel remains the number one recipient of U.S. foreign military financing (FMF) from year to year. (5) Looking to the future, however, the United States must determine if it is feasible and worthwhile to continue funding this friendship. (6)

    This note examines whether the United States, despite being legally bound to comply with Israel's military needs pursuant to U.S. Congressional legislation passed in 2008, should continue to grant considerable FMF amounts to Israel, even though these appropriations undermine the United States' self-interests. (7) Part II explores the precedential special relationship between the United States and Israel and financial extensions of that relationship. (8) Part III discusses current global affairs, Israel's qualitative military edge (QME) in the Middle East region, and Israel's recent request for future guaranteed U.S. FMF for purposes of maintaining Israeli QME. (9) Israel is relying on U.S. legislation that formally recognizes U.S. commitment to maintaining Israel's QME in order to support compliance with Israel's request. (10) Part IV argues that by passing the Naval Vessel Transfer Act of 2008, Pub. L. No. 110-429, [section] 201, 122 Stat. 4842 (2008) (The Act), the United States made it more difficult for themselves to make sound, independent decisions regarding future FMF amounts to Israel. (11) Part IV further evidences the burdens The Act's obligatory nature places on the United States through changing political, economic, and international security and strategic climates, and makes recommendations to counteract The Act's burdens. (12) Finally, Part V concludes that the United States should continue appropriating military aid and FMF to Israel because it is an integral part of the countries' relationship, but do so more prudently, so as to strike a balance between individual U.S. and Israeli needs. (13)

  2. FACTS

    1. Development of a Special Relationship

      1. The Early Years

        The United States was the first country to recognize the official State of Israel on May 14, 1948. (14) On that day, Israel became a formal, independent State under a partition plan the United Nations General Assembly introduced nearly six months prior. (15) Under the partition plan, Palestinian land, considered Jewish territory in the Christian Bible, was used to create the nation of Israel. (16) Since then, more often than not, relations between Israel and other countries and territories in the Middle East have been violent and hostile. (17) Despite these threats, Israel persevered and became the United States' greatest friend in the Middle East, and quite possibly in the world. (18)

      2. Ideological Similarities

        The relationship between the United States and Israel is closer than most because of the unique similarities between the two countries. (19) First, both nations are rooted in religious ideology. (20) The United States is "one nation under God," while Israel is the realization of God's "promised land" to his "chosen people." (21) Puritanical religious fractions in colonial America celebrated Zionism, which called for the return of an Israeli State, long before the issue was introduced to the world stage during the World Wars of the twentieth century. (22) These early American colonists, mostly religious refugees, analogized the displacement of, and prejudice towards Israelites in scripture, to their own situation in an unfamiliar land, thousands of miles from their homes in Western Europe. (23) Commonalities between the United States and Israel were further realized in the foundings of each nation--colonial Americans rallied for freedom from tyrannical British control, while the Jewish people yearned for a return to their Biblical land after facing the horrific events of the Holocaust. (24) From this perspective, both nations were born out of the hope of persecuted peoples. (25)

      3. Shared Democratic Values

        The governmental structures chosen by each countries' respective founding leaders are attributable to Israel and the United States' origins and shared values, and now, the United States and Israel emulate and encourage democratic ideals for their peoples and others around the world. (26) Though half of the world's countries are considered democracies, only twenty-five nations are "full democracies." (27) The United States is considered one. (28) The Democracy Index defines "full democracies" as those

        in which not only basic political freedoms and civil liberties are respected, but the[r]e will also tend to be underpin[ings] [of] a political culture conducive to the flourishing of democracy. The functioning of government is satisfactory. Media are independent and diverse. There is an effective system of checks and balances. The judiciary is independent and judicial decisions are enforced. (29) Conversely, Israel is considered a "flawed democracy," even though Israel's founding leaders wished to create a political structure that exemplified Western values. (30) The Democracy Index defines "flawed democracies" as those that

        have free and fair elections and even if there are problems (such as infringements on media freedom), basic civil liberties will be respected. However, there are significant weaknesses in other aspects of democracy, including problems in governance, an underdeveloped political culture and low levels of political participation. (31) It is not surprising Israel is regarded as a "flawed democracy," especially when considering the latter part of the "flawed democracy" definition. (32) Israel spent much of its sixty-five years engaged in violence and wars with neighboring countries and territories, which is not conducive to forming a definitive "political culture" with high "levels of political participation." (33)

        Israel's initial commitment to a government structure embodying Western democratic ideals, however, did help Israel achieve freedom and fairness in electoral processes and to recognize the need for and importance of civil liberties, like free speech. (34) In this regard, Israel is very different from its neighboring countries in the Middle East region, standing alone as a champion of autonomous thought and its protection. (35) Most Middle Eastern countries have governments under the control of dictators, or terrorist regimes. (36) The Democracy Index classifies these Middle Eastern governments as "hybrid" or "authoritarian," which are "regimes" fraught with corruption and deception as a result of "state-owned or controlled" media outlets and fixed judiciaries that provide ample opportunities for unfair and unenforced laws as the government sees fit. (37) The plausibility of conflict is inescapable with the existence of these various polarizing international governments; thus, it is only natural that strategic alliances have formed between those nations sharing comparable values. (38) The United States and Israel exemplify this notion. (39)

      4. Strategic Relationship

        The unique relationship between the United States and Israel is not only based on religious, ideological similarities, but also practical, strategic ones. (40) Most notably, shared security interests are the most significant contributing factor in the forming and fostering of the relationship between the two countries. (41) In recent years, shared security interests have expanded to include protecting each country from external terrorist threats, thwarting the emergence of violent leadership regimes in the Middle East and promoting peaceful political groups to lead democratic reforms instead, preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and containing the expansion of radical Islamism. (42) Strong strategic ties between the United States and Israel, supported by substantial monetary appropriations, were not always a reality, however. (43)

    2. Aid as Realization and Extension of Special Relationship

      Initially, U.S. aid to Israel, in any form, was virtually nonexistent, despite strong commonalities between the two nations. (44) The United States supplied minimal economic aid to Israel through economic loans as early as 1949, but military aid did not come until much later. (45) The presently commanding political power known as the "Israel Lobby," with its most known fraction, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), is partially responsible for the shift in U.S. FMF practices towards Israel. (46) AIPAC grew and gained influence in Washington's elite political circles, which influenced American sympathies when Israel engaged in repeated regional wars during the 1960s and 1970s. (47) Americans perceived larger Arab nations as constantly banding together against Israel. (48)

      Most significantly though, the Cold War is responsible for the relationship the United States and Israel share, and the amount of military aid Israel receives from the United States today. (49) Strategic security interests between the United States and Israel were initially realized during the Cold War. (50) Motives for the U.S.-Israeli alliance were selfish during this time: the United States needed allies against the growing Communist regime, and Israel needed military support and economic aid after sustaining multiple regional wars in 1967, 1969-70, and 1973. (51) The era of U.S. monetary assistance to Israel thus began with the United States' realization that aid is perhaps the most actual and concrete example of support for another country; by supporting...

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