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The announcement last week by the United States of the largest military aid package in its history – to Israel – was a win for both sides.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu could boast that his lobbying had boosted aid from $3.1 billion a year to $3.8bn – a 22 per cent increase – for a decade starting in 2019.

Mr Netanyahu has presented this as a rebuff to those who accuse him of jeopardising Israeli security interests with his government’s repeated affronts to the White House.

In the past weeks alone, defence minister Avigdor Lieberman has compared last year’s nuclear deal between Washington and Iran with the 1938 Munich pact, which bolstered Hitler; and Mr Netanyahu has implied that US opposition to settlement expansion is the same as support for the “ethnic cleansing” of Jews.

American president Barack Obama, meanwhile, hopes to stifle his own critics who insinuate that he is anti-Israel. The deal should serve as a fillip too for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic party’s candidate to succeed Mr Obama in November’s election.

In reality, however, the Obama administration has quietly punished Mr Netanyahu for his misbehaviour. Israeli expectations of a $4.5bn-a-year deal were whittled down after Mr Netanyahu stalled negotiations last year as he sought to recruit Congress to his battle against the Iran deal.

In fact, Israel already receives roughly $3.8bn – if Congress’s assistance on developing missile defence programmes is factored in. Notably, Israel has been forced to promise not to approach Congress for extra funds.

The deal takes into account neither inflation nor the dollar’s depreciation against the shekel.

A bigger blow still is the White House’s demand to phase out a special exemption that allowed Israel to spend nearly 40 per cent of aid locally on weapon and fuel purchases. Israel will soon have to buy all its armaments from the US, ending what amounted to a subsidy to its own arms industry.

Nonetheless, Washington’s renewed military largesse – in the face of almost continual insults – inevitably fuels claims that the Israeli tail is wagging the US dog. Even The New York Times has described the aid package as “too big”.

Since the 1973 war, Israel has received at least $100bn in military aid, with more assistance hidden from view. Back in the 1970s, Washington paid half of Israel’s military budget. Today it still foots a fifth of the bill, despite Israel’s economic success.

But the US expects a return on its massive investment. As the late Israeli politician-general Ariel Sharon once observed, ­Israel has been a US “aircraft carrier” in the Middle East, acting as the regional bully and carrying out operations that benefit Washington.

Almost no one blames the US for Israeli attacks that wiped out Iraq’s and Syria’s nuclear programmes. A nuclear-armed Iraq or Syria would have deterred later US-backed moves at regime overthrow, as well as countering the strategic advantage Israel derives from its own nuclear arsenal.

In addition, Israel’s US-sponsored military prowess is a triple boon to the US weapons industry, the country’s most powerful lobby. Public funds are siphoned off to let Israel buy goodies from American arms makers. That, in turn, serves as a shop window for other customers and spurs an endless and lucrative game of catch-up in the rest of the Middle East.

The first F-35 fighter jets to arrive in Israel in December – their various components produced in 46 US states – will increase the clamour for the cutting-edge warplane.

Israel is also a “front-line laboratory”, as former Israeli army negotiator Eival Gilady admitted at the weekend, that develops and field-tests new technology Washington can later use itself.

The US is planning to buy back the missile interception system Iron Dome – which neutralises battlefield threats of retaliation – it largely paid for. Israel works closely too with the US in developing cyber­warfare, such as the Stuxnet worm that damaged Iran’s civilian nuclear programme.

But the clearest message from Israel’s new aid package is one delivered to the Palestinians: Washington sees no pressing strategic interest in ending the occupation. It stood up to Mr Netanyahu over the Iran deal but will not risk a damaging clash over Palestinian statehood.

Some believe that Mr Obama signed the aid package to win the credibility necessary to overcome his domestic Israel lobby and pull a rabbit from the hat: an initiative, unveiled shortly before he leaves office, that corners Mr Netanyahu into making peace.

Hopes have been raised by an expected meeting at the United Nations in New York on Wednesday. But their first talks in 10 months are planned only to demonstrate unity to confound critics of the aid deal.

If Mr Obama really wanted to pressure Mr Netanyahu, he would have used the aid agreement as leverage. Now Mr Netanyahu need not fear US financial retaliation, even as he intensifies effective annexation of the West Bank.

Mr Netanyahu has drawn the right lesson from the aid deal – he can act against the Palestinians with continuing US impunity.

- See more at: http://www.jonathan-cook.net/2016-09-19/palestinians-lose-in-us-military-aid-deal-with-israel/#sthash.fL4Eq28N.dpuf

Stop All Intervention in Syria and Let the People Decide Their Future

By Lindsey German

October 15, 2016 "Information Clearing House" - "MEE"-  It's hard to listen to parliamentary debates on foreign policy without a growing sense of disbelief.

We saw one again this week, this time over the horrific situation in Aleppo. Most politicians suffer a kind of selective amnesia over past interventions. They bemoan the fact that David Cameron lost the vote to bomb Syria back in 2013, and claim that things would be better there now had MPs voted to intervene.

But they ignore the record of such interventions and the scathing criticisms of them from official bodies, including their own parliamentary select committees.

Three separate reports in the past three months have made clear that those interventions did more harm than good, that they have worsened the situation where they took place, and that two of the previous three British prime ministers – Tony Blair and David Cameron - were very much criticised for their role in the campaigning for war.

The Chilcot report over Iraq was the most scathing, but less reported was the foreign affairs committee report on the bombing of Libya in 2011, which started as the imposition of a no-fly zone but rapidly became a war for regime change, with 30,000 killed by bombing and a civil war still raging today.

The decision to intervene in Syria last December has also faced criticism, this time by the defence select committee.

Pass the blame

Little of this is referred to in the debates. Instead when your interventions over the past 15 years have failed, what do you do? Well, blame the organisation which opposed them in the first place.

So Stop the War is berated for not marching. Ann Clwyd MP, a hawk back in 2003, is demanding that two million demonstrate outside the Russian embassy – even though she bitterly opposed those who did march then. Some even claim that Stop the War is culpable over Syria, even though it opposes all bombing and wants peace.

It should not need to be said that Stop the War is not bombing or intervening in the war, it is an anti-war organisation.

Why does the organisation come under such attack? Because Stop the War has called it right over these wars, and is calling it right over Syria.

No one can fail to be moved by the endless war into which the people of Syria are now plunged. But it is precisely because we value human life that we oppose military intervention there. A no-fly zone will escalate the war, not end it, and there will be more civilian casualties not less, just as there were in Libya.

Syria's future for Syrians alone to decide

We did not stop the war in Iraq, but we have helped to shift opinion in this country against further wars. It could be argued that Chilcot would never have happened without an anti-war movement. Jeremy Corbyn’s two victories as Labour leader also are in part the result of a strong anti-war and peace movement.

Stop the War's position is clear: we oppose all bombing in Syria, including by the Syrian regime and Russia, but also by the US, UK, Saudi Arabia and other powers intervening there. We call for an end to all outside intervention. All supply of arms should stop.

We do not take a position on the internal politics of Syria, and believe that this is a question for the Syrian people alone.

The attacks on us come in the main from people who do not like our opposition to wars. In every instance, we have been accused of supporting those whom our government opposes. So we have been accused of supporting the Taliban, Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi and now Assad and, more specifically, Russia.

For the record, we do not support Russia or any other intervening power. And we regard these attacks on us as the sort of witch hunt that tries to destroy a legitimate criticism of government by saying that we are allied to a foreign power. It is despicable and untrue, and a smokescreen to hide the myriad failings of this 15-year war on terror.

Time to change course

The danger in the Middle East is that we are now seeing great power rivalry played out in the region, especially in Syria and Iraq. This is already causing untold misery for the people of those countries, the growth of terrorism and an instability which can spill into a much bigger regional war.

Those like Jeremy Corbyn who have taken a strong stance against successive governments’ wars should be congratulated, not attacked. Those who backed military intervention refuse to honestly account for their actions. Their policies were defeated in parliament three years ago when nearly every Labour MP voted against bombing Syria.

Last year a much bigger minority of Labour MPs voted to bomb not Assad, but the Islamic State (IS) group. The British role in this subsequently has been marginal, and now all the talk is about Assad, not IS.

We live in a very dangerous world. The US presidential election will almost certainly be followed by more calls for military intervention, not less. The attacks on Stop the War cannot be seen in isolation from wider politics, both in the US and here, where Jeremy Corbyn is putting forward a genuinely different foreign policy based on peace not war.

This is not the time for more intervention. It is the time for a recognition of government failures and a commitment to change course.

Unfortunately, with a foreign secretary like Boris Johnson, the Stop the War Coalition will be around for some time to come. 

- Lindsey German is convenor of the Stop the War Coalition and co-author of A People's History of London

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