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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

Trump is The Lesser Evil Because He’s Such a Narcissist

By Prof. Michael Hudson

She… a vindictive dictator, punishing her enemies, appointing neocons

Well, both Hillary and Donald Trump say the election is about the lesser evil. So, if that’s true, who’s the greater evil?

Posted November 08, 2016

Ross Ashcroft: You’ve got two candidates in the U.S. and one is very pro-Wall Street, specifically Goldman Sachs. She might as well be on the payroll. In fact, she is on the payroll. And the other is a rent-seeker-in-chief, and he’s built real estate and used the banks. So you’ve got Trump and you’ve got Clinton. Both of them are in bed with Wall Street, fundamentally. But the people get it now.

Michael Hudson: Well, I think Hillary Clinton has a 79 percent disapproval rating, and Trump has an 81 percent disapproval rating. So you have the two most unpopular politicians in the United States as the choice. So basically, the voters in the United States are given a choice: “Yes,”—“Yes, please,” and “Yes, thank you.” I think Trump missed his big chance to make a populist push. Instead of saying he’s going to cut taxes on Wall Street, he can say, “Look, I stiffed the banks. I went bankrupt four or six times. I screwed the banks and they didn’t get paid and I can screw the banks for you people. Vote for me. I know how to do it.”

Ashcroft: Yes, he’s missed that.

Hudson: I think that would have been his winning ploy.

Ashcroft: You should be his campaign strategist.

Hudson: Well, except I don’t think I’d have many friends if I worked for Donald Trump. And we don’t know that if he agreed with me today what he’d do tomorrow. That’s part of the problem. He doesn’t play well with colleagues.

Ashcroft: You sort of prefer him though—would that be right? Because he doesn’t play well with colleagues, because he’s awkward, because he’s a loner, because—because you’re saying you don’t want a resourceful, intelligent and influential type in the job because the job’s so powerful.

Hudson: Well, both Hillary and Donald Trump say the election is about the lesser evil. So, if that’s true, who’s the greater evil? Hillary has a whole crowd behind her—the neocons, who basically want to be very confrontational toward Russia and continue what she was doing in Libya to Syria—militarily confrontational. Or you have Donald Trump, who doesn’t really know who he can appoint and whether he can get enough people to work with him. So if the direction of America is to try to hold on to a unipolar world—militarily confrontational—you want a president who is least able to do evil. And there’s no question, Trump is the lesser evil because he’s such a narcissist, and really sort of a blank slate. And I’d rather take a “pig in a poke” than someone who—you already know what Hillary will do. She’ll do what the husband does. And it’s—the Clintons have corrupted the Democratic Party. That’s what Bernie Sanders ran on against her—

Ashcroft: And did very well.

Hudson: And did very well. But then he didn’t realize that there really cannot be any progress by the labor unions, or consumers, or the 99 percent as long as the Democratic Party is controlled totally by Wall Street and by the Robert Rubin gang that they brought in. And they’re really like a mafia gang. If you think the financial sector and the banking sector as crime—and after all, remember, they’ve paid billions and billions of dollars in civil fines without a single banker being sent to jail—that’s what a criminal wants to do. When the criminals take control of the justice system and take over the police force and bribe the judges—all the Hollywood movies in the 1930s were that—then you’ve got the criminals in control. And you’ve got the financial sector criminalized. That’s what my colleague Bill Black at the University of Missouri at Kansas City has been emphasizing, and he’s convinced all of us that the business plan of the big banks—Citibank, Bank of America, we’ve just got, and Wells Fargo, with all of the huge frauds that are coming out—that was their business plan: fraud. And people are afraid to say that fraud is banking. They’re afraid to say just exactly what the evidence is because it’s considered impolite to talk about reality.

Ashcroft: What sort of president then will Hillary Clinton be?

Hudson: A dictator. She… a vindictive dictator, punishing her enemies, appointing neocons in the secretary of state, in the defense department, appointing Wall Street people in the Treasury and the Federal Reserve, and the class war will really break out very explicitly. And she’ll—as Warren Buffet said, there is a class war and we’re winning it.

Ashcroft: As in the one percent are winning it.

Hudson: The one percent are winning it. And she will try to use the rhetoric to tell people: “Nothing to see here folks. Keep on moving,” while the economy goes down and down and she cashes in as she’s been doing all along, richer and richer, and if she’s president, there will not be an investigator of the criminal conflict of interest of the Bill Clinton Foundation, of pay-to-play. You’ll have a presidency in which corporations who pay the Clintons will be able to set policy. Whoever has the money to buy the politicians will buy control of policy because elections have been privatized and made part of the market economy in the United States. That’s what the Citizens United Supreme Court case was all about.

Ashcroft: So that’s another example of rent-seeking.

Hudson: Yes, political payoffs. And that’s the largest rent-seeking of all. Basically, for paying one penny, you get a whole dollar’s worth of special privileges. And rent is really payment for a privilege. It’s for a privilege that’s created from the private sector. And basically as Balzac said, every great fortune originates in a great theft that isn’t considered a great theft anymore because it’s all viewed as part of the market. It’s viewed as if that’s how the world works. So you’ll have a theft taking place and the Clintons will say, “That’s just how the world operates and GDP is going up because we’re getting richer, enough to offset the degree by which you 99 percent are getting poor.”

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