This article is one of many that will begin to analyze Republican and Democratic views and policy statements on Israel as we build up to the AIPAC and J Street Policy Conferences in March, and the national election in November.
On Friday, the Republican Jewish Coalition released a web ad entitled “Security,” which, the RJC states, “highlights the disconnect between President Obama’s rhetoric about his support for Israel’s security and his actions, which will weaken Israel’s missile defenses at a critical time.”
Watch the ad here:
In its press release, the RJC’s Executive Director Matt Brooks said,
“Pres. Obama proposes slashing funds for military aid specifically for Israel’s missile defense program, a joint U.S.-Israel effort over many years. This dramatic funding cut (18% below his 2011 request) would leave Israel vulnerable at a time when Israel faces serious rocket threats from Hamas in Gaza and from Hezbollah in Lebanon, and a growing nuclear threat from Iran. At this dangerous time, no true friend of Israel would talk about cutting funding to our joint missile defense programs with Israel.”
The video ad asks people to call the White House and tell Pres. Obama not to slash funding for Israel’s missile defense.
So far, the video has only gotten 3,600 views on Youtube. But that hasn’t stopped the critics from weighing, and raising a few important facts while they’re at it.
In a press release entitled “FACT CHECK: President Obama INCREASED Military Assistance to Israel in FY2013 Budget,” released the same day as the web ad was released, the National Jewish Democratic Council took issue with the RJC’s premise, and its effort to, “use Israel as a partisan wedge issue during this election year.”
In its press release, NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris commented:
“We are truly through the looking glass here; only those with the most partisan, facts-be-damned agenda would view the largest military assistance package for any foreign country in history at a difficult budgetary time as anything but a powerful way of supporting our closest ally, Israel. The hypocrisy here is astonishing; the simple fact is that the overall budget request for military assistance to Israel is increasing. Further, as has been reported by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the missile defense funding previously requested by President George W. Bush for Israel needed to routinely be dramatically increased — and even doubled in 2003 — by Congress. This was met with deafening silence on the part of Jewish Republicans, and by us as well, as this was hardly an indicator that President Bush was no friend of Israel.
These Republicans continue to play a dangerous game with Israel’s security through such antics. By suggesting anything but the truth — that this Administration has dramatically strengthened Israel’s military capabilities — such tactics as these dreadful videos can incorrectly suggest to the Iranian leadership that now is the time to become even more belligerent against a supposedly weakened Israel. Here we have Republicans sadly placing partisanship above Israel’s safety and security — and placing politics above the rich tradition of bipartisan support for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.”
And just in case that doesn’t clear everything up (since when does it, really?), the Associated Press released their own
“FACT CHECK: US aid for Israel missile program” press release on Saturday.
Donna Cassata of AP called the argument by two House Republicans that President Obama was “jeopardizing Israel’s security with a ‘record low’ budget request for a cooperative U.S.-Israeli missile defense program” an “election-year claim” that “fails to take into account the billions the administration wants in aid for the Mideast ally and ignores a few Washington realities.”
She continued with a bit more of the numbers (always helpful) that weren’t cited in Friday’s political press releases:
“In his defense blueprint released this past week, Obama asked for $99.8 million for a program designed to protect Israel from short-range ballistic missiles and rockets that might be fired from Gaza or Hezbollah in the Lebanese territory or longer range missiles from Iran or Syria. The request for 2013 is slightly less than what the administration sought in 2012, $106.1 million. . . .
The sudden GOP outcry over the missile defense request one day after Obama released his proposal belied the fact that the administration had told Congress how much it wanted — last year.
In its 2012 budget, the administration spelled out future requests for the U.S.-Israeli missile defense program, a typical practice for defense budgets — $99.8 million in fiscal 2013, $95.7 million in 2014, $96.8 million in 2015, $103.9 million in 2016 and $106 million in 2017. The $6 million cut in Obama’s request, a small amount in a $614 billion defense budget, is part of the deeper reductions in projected military spending dictated by the deficit-cutting plan that the president and congressional Republicans, including [Rep. Ileana] Ros-Lehtinen and [California Rep. Howard “Buck” ] McKeon, backed last August.
What do you think? Is President Obama putting Israel at risk? Or is all the political hullabaloo just that?