The scale of Israeli influence

The scale of Israeli influence

Kamran Yousaf May 24, 2021
This writer is a senior foreign affairs correspondent at The Express Tribune

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s interview to the CNN made international headlines and has been the subject of debate as to whether his remarks of “deep pockets” and “Israeli influence” over media are anti-Semitic or not. Most Pakistanis backed Qureshi while others felt the Pakistani foreign minister could have shot back at the anchor with a more powerful argument about why his remarks were not anti-Semitic. As this debate goes on, the question still remains: does Israel indeed exercise influence over the western media? To find an answer to this question, we, perhaps, need to analyse the US-Israeli relationship because that would give us a clear picture about the extent of influence Tel Aviv has over the world’s superpower.

The US is the main backer of Israel. While Israel’s policies often come under criticism, there has been less debate about the role of the US. To say the US has been complicit in Israeli atrocities is no understatement. If we dig deep into the US-Israeli relationship, it is evident that Israel cannot take any military action without active US military and defence support.

A congressional research service report of November 2020 has given insight into the military assistance the US has provided Israel.

The paper titled “US Foreign Aid to Israel” reveals that Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of US foreign assistance since WWII. Successive administrations, working with the Congress, have provided Israel with significant assistance in light of robust domestic US support for Israel and its security; shared strategic goals in the Middle East; a mutual commitment to democratic values; and historical ties dating from US support for the creation of Israel in 1948.

To date, the US has provided Israel $146 billion in bilateral assistance and missile defence funding. At present, almost all US bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance, although from 1971 to 2007, Israel also received significant economic assistance, the research says.

In 2016, the US and Israeli governments signed their third 10-year MoU on military aid, covering FY2019 to FY2028. Under the terms of the MoU, the US pledged to provide — subject to congressional appropriation — $38 billion in military aid ($33 billion in Foreign Military Financing grants plus $5 billion in missile defence appropriations) to Israel. This MoU followed a previous $30 billion 10-year agreement, which ran through FY2018.

Israel is the first international operator of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Department of Defense’s fifth-generation stealth aircraft, considered to be the most technologically advanced fighter jet ever made. To date, Israel has purchased 50 F-35s in three separate contracts, funded with US assistance.

US military aid for Israel has been designed to maintain Israel’s “qualitative military edge (QME)” over neighbouring militaries. The rationale for QME is that Israel must rely on better equipment and training to compensate for being much smaller in land area and population than most of its potential adversaries.

For decades, successive administrations, in conjunction with the Congress, have taken measures to maintain Israel’s QME in a number of ways. For example: in practice, US arms sales policy has traditionally allowed Israel first regional access to US defence technology. In cases in which both Israel and an Arab state operate the same US platform, Israel has first received either a more advanced version of the platform or the ability to customise the US system.

Given this level of cooperation, it is no surprise that the US repeatedly blocked UNSC resolutions against Israel. So, if Israel can successfully influence the superpower, influencing the media there is just a side job. Therefore, it is not shocking when the CNN presenter termed Foreign Minister Qureshi’s remarks anti-Semitic.


Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2021.

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