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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
Welcome to the Trump World Order

By Maria Dubovikova

November 11, 2016 "Information Clearing House" -  So Donald Trump is the new president of the United States. Allan Lichtman and his “13 Keys to the White House” have been proved right. The 30-year tradition of predicting the out-come of the US presidential elections continues uninterrupted. Political figures have started checking their social media accounts, deleting Tweets that could be uncomplimentary to Trump. It doesn’t help as the Internet remembers everything.

Some are even more unlucky. French President Francois Hollande said in public recently that Trump “make you want to retch”. The global political narrative is quickly drifting away from “the dumb Trump” to “Congratulations, dear Mr. President, I always knew you would win!”

Journalists who had been vilifying Trump – and promising apocalypse in case he is elected – have started debating how he would possibly save the world. Most experts failed in their prognosis. They could not imagine that the erratic Trump will be victorious over reserved, pragmatic, and experienced Clinton. They had their reasons but in their analysis they missed a lot of things.

Why Trump is president-elect

Trump is a living example of the American dream. From being a simple middle class Ameri-can, child of second generation German immigrants, he jumped to become a billionaire and then the US president. His penthouse apartment is said to be more luxurious than the White House. He had his own plane before becoming the US president.

More importantly, he has promised to revive the American dream for all Americans, irrespec-tive of their social status. Experts and the so-called elite considered his mannerisms and choice of language as a disadvantage. But instead it turned out to be his advantage as he connected to people in their language.

The fact remains that the elite, and people considering themselves intellectuals, do not form the majority in any society. The US is no different. Trump’s tweets and declarations were shocking for the elites but were very common for the masses. His imperfections made him closer to the ordinary people, especially from the working class. The “he is one of us” image always works when you deal with the masses. He gambled with it and emerged the winner.

He got a chance to grab the Oval Cabinet as he is not liberal. Shadi Hamid seems right not believing that humans naturally inclined toward liberalism. Moreover, some men continue to remain sexist. If they don’t confess it, they keep this deep inside. Women frequently like more bad guys than respectable family men. They may not confess it but this sometimes reveals where their sympathies lie and how they vote.

A large number of white Americans continue to show racist tendencies. While calls for toler-ance goes on, the influx of immigrants gave a fertile ground for racism and somehow xeno-phobia. During these elections, it appeared, that the Americans had to choose between two candi-dates with little credibility. They opted for change and fresh ideas. Also, the turnout was far lesser than on the previous elections, which indicates disillusionment over the current presi-dential campaign and both the candidates.

Popular vote shows the deep divide in the American society, with Clinton showing ad-vantage over Trump. However, it was the US electoral system that brought Trump to power.

Homeland and foreign policy

Apparently he is set to make America great again not by foreign policy and imposing its will but by boosting the economy, retuning to manufacturing and giving new jobs. There is also a possibility that he will put even foreign policy based on business ties. So no help or assis-tance could come for free or without concomitant advantages for the economy.

The tycoon that he has been Trump is aware that money decides everything. He will proba-bly try to implement this rule in policymaking, both at home and abroad. The main motive of the foreign policy could turn into bargain, trading and profit.

Trump is not going to be easy for the Arab leaders. “You, guys, are out of business” – these were his words in response to a journalist asking about the President-elect’s policy vision toward the Middle East. Pro-Israeli and mostly anti-Arab, he will not try to solve Arab prob-lems anymore. However, he will continue the US fight against terrorism and probably be more hawkish than Clinton.

In any case, he will not be inclined to treat the Arabs as equal partners. Such an attitude is going to be unacceptable for the Middle Easters powers and could lead to cooling of ties. The same fate – i.e. no allies, just business – probably awaits Europe.

Trump and Russia

Russia, which was frequently debated during the campaign, is neither a winner nor a looser after this election. First of all, no one really knows who is Mr. Trump and what he is going to do. Secondly, he has Senate and Congress, which will not let him do whatever he likes. Moreover, an anti-Russian spirit prevails in the US no matter what.

With Senate and the Congress, both in Republican hands, they are likely to seriously limit his intentions, as he will have to balance between what he wants and what he actually can. However, this man is hard to deal with. So pressure groups and other instruments of man-agement of the US policy will not probably work with Trump.

Even if there is a shift in the US-Russia relations, this will take a long time. Such a shift is needed anyway and a confrontation isn’t good for the whole world. Trump is probably de-fined to press the reboot button in Russian relations and Russia doesn’t need a weak US. Russia needs to speak with the US, to listen and to be heard. Trump, as a businessman, seems exactly that kind of a figure.

We are entering into a new era that will be hardly predictable but extremely interesting. Clinton had many cards on her hands but failed to play them the right way. Trump has out-smarted her. A game of poker has never been so relevant as an analogy. A spicy 45th season of “the United States Saga” is about to begin.

Maria Dubovikova is a President of IMESClub and CEO of MEPFoundation. Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations [University] of Ministry of For-eign Affairs of Russia), now she is a PhD Candidate there. Her research fields are in Russian foreign policy in the Middle East, Euro-Arab dialogue, policy in France and the U.S. towards the Mediterranean, France-Russia bilateral relations, humanitarian cooperation and open diplomacy. She can be followed on Twitter: @politblogme

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