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An interview of Elliott Abrams by Algemeiner
JUNE 23, 2016
Elliot Abrams, former deputy national security adviser to president George W. Bush, currently Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Despite claims by Barack Obama that his support for Israel has been greater than that of all presidents throughout American history, a possible White House decision that would undermine Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME) — highlights his hypocrisy, a prominent foreign policy expert told The Algemeiner on Thursday.
Elliott Abrams — senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, and former national security adviser to President George W. Bush — was reacting to reports that Obama is seeking to stop subsidizing Israel’s defense sector.
More specifically, according to a column by Eli Lake in Bloomberg View on Wednesday, the president wants to remove the “offshore procurement” provision that has been unique to Israel’s aid package. Israel, Lake wrote, “is not only the greatest beneficiary of US defense assistance, but also the only one allowed to spend a portion of that assistance on weapons and equipment from its own industry. Everyone else has to buy American.” Israeli and American officials say, according to Lake, that “Obama would like to phase out the agreement that allows Israel to spend 26 percent of US annual aid at home” — something that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been objecting to as a renewal of the package is being discussed.
“In one respect this is surprising,” Lake said. “Obama and his supporters like to tout US military aid to Israel as an act of the president’s unprecedented generosity. The US has given Israel nearly $24 billion under Obama, more than any other US president. At the same time, Obama’s insistence on ending the US subsidy for Israeli defense items reflects a growing unease among many US defense companies that America’s cold war client state is now a competitor in the international arms market.”
Abrams told The Algemeiner that he doesn’t see much irony in Obama’s reported reversal in policy, because his claims of unwavering support for Israel “have always been baseless.”
“While military-military and intelligence relationships with Israel are very good, they are also largely invisible. The political relationship, which is entirely visible and critical for Israel’s security, is awful,” he said.
Furthermore, he said, “We know from recent comments by [former US Defense Secretary] Leon Panetta that Obama has never been a supporter of maintaining Israel’s QME. This is another fact that undermines the claim that he’s so great for Israel’s security. It should be obvious that undermining Israel’s defense sector undermines its security.”
Abrams also said that Israel is not the only country affected in this way by the current administration in Washington. In fact, he said, most US allies — including the Gulf states, Japan, Korea, Australia and Poland — “feel less safe today than they did when Obama entered office.”
Where Obama’s attitude towards the Jewish state is concerned, Abrams said, “The record of his seven years is one of constant battles with the government of Israel. He has a lack of sympathy and a willingness to blame Israel for the stall in peace talks, when we know full well it is [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas who has refused to talk.” Furthermore, he added, Obama’s “successful fight to legitimize a nuclear weapons program for Iran — delayed a decade,” greatly endangers Israel.
“That is not a record of support for Israel’s security,” he said.
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