Monday, July 13, 2009

How to be tough on Egypt AND Israel

The JPost has an opinion article from last week that suggests the Obama Administration is being too easy on Egypt (I won't even address the author's suggestion that the Administration is being tough on Israel, which is patently false and a ludicrous suggestion). But, the idea that the US should be tougher on Egypt is a valid one, and since the only way to do this is by withholding military assistance funds, this would necessitate cutting back assistance to Israel as well. The Camp David Accords locked in US military aid to Israel and Egypt at a ratio of 3:2, and if we could legitimate changing one, it would take us a long way in legitimating a change in the other as well.

The JPost author suggests this ratio may not reflect actual aid to both countries, indicating that the amount Egypt receives may be larger and what Israel receives may be less. Although he is probably correct in magnitude he is incorrect in direction. Israel probably receives about twice as much in actual dollars as the ratio suggests. This is because (in contrast to other countries that receive FMF - foreign military financing funds) Israel is allowed to demand 'offsets' of its spending on military procurement - offsets that frequently exceed 100% of the actual contract value. The US Bureau of Industry and Security sites more than $2 billion in offsets from US contractors alone between 1993 and 2006 (although their information comes from reports submitted by the contractors - not exactly what I would consider an objective source of reliable information). I'd estimate it at about twice that much - since the 7 or so prime contractors that provide about 80% of US offsets have an interest in minimizing the appearance of their overall impact, both on the domestic US defense supplier base and on upsetting political equilibria in conflict zones. Much of these offsets are fed into Israel's domestic defense capability either through coproduction, licensing agreements or technology transfers.

If we started adding this into the Camp David ratio we could probably withold some FMF from both Israel AND Egypt - now that's being tough.

No comments: