“American Road” Divides Palestine as Israel Asks for Billions in US Aid

June 17th, 2020 - by Times of Israel & Alison Weir / If Americans Knew & International Middle East Media Center

Construction on a new tunnel being dug underground to ease traffic congestion between Jerusalem and Gush Etzio will cut travel times in East Jerusalem but ‘cuts off Palestinian neighborhoods within the city from one another.’

Construction Begins on ‘American Road’ Linking Jerusalem-area Settlements

Times of Israel Staff

 (June 15, 2020) — Israel has begun building a bypass road linking West Bank settlements to Jerusalem, in a project dubbed “The American Road” that is set to cost over $250 million, according to a new report.

The road will connect settlements north and south of the capital to the city, as well as cut travel times for East Jerusalem neighborhoods, city officials told Reuters on Monday. It is poised to be completed in the summer of 2021, according to the report.

The project is named for an incomplete decades-old road worked on by a US company in the 1960s that winds through southeast Jerusalem. Construction was abandoned following the Six Day War in 1967.

Fadi Al-Hidmi, the Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, told the news agency the project “cuts off Palestinian neighborhoods within the city from one another.” Jerusalem officials counter that it will benefit both Jewish and Arab residents of Jerusalem.

“It doesn’t unite the settlements. It’s not about uniting borders or municipal lines,” said Deputy Mayor Arieh King, a far-right council member. “But it does connect them more on the daily level — whether it’s studies, tourism or commerce. And then in practice you create a huge Jerusalem metropolis.”

Critics say the road undermines the possibility of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, cutting off these parts of the city from the West Bank.

An Israeli attorney representing families affected by the construction said such infrastructure projects amounted to “de facto annexation” of territory by Israel.

Daniel Seidemann dismissed arguments the road would also benefit East Jerusalem residents as “collateral spinoff.”

When completed, the road will link settlements south of Jerusalem to those north and east of the city, such as Ma’ale Adumim.

In March, then-defense minister Naftali Bennett ordered the advancement of plans to build a highway for Palestinian motorists that will remove them from the controversial E1 area — a section of the West Bank between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim — where Israel is moving forward with construction for settlers.

The building projects come amid ramped up talk of prospective Israeli annexation of portions of the West Bank, which could begin in July under the Trump peace plan.

Breaking Defense magazine reports that Israel may ask to get its yearly aid ahead of time, and possible twice as much as usual … But 26 million Americans out of jobs and US companies closing due to coronavirus might object… A petition proposes: ‘Israel has received over $10 million per day, year after year. This year it’s time to keep our money home.’

Israel May Ask for Double Its Usual $3.8 Billion from the US This Year

Alison Weir / If Americans Knew & International Middle East Media Center

 (April 28, 2020) — Breaking Defense, a digital magazine that covers military issues, reports that Israel may ask for its US aid early, possibly in a lump sum that could be as high as $7.6 billion.

This would work out to almost $21 million per day from American taxpayers, even though the US is approaching a $4 trillion deficit (the largest in the world), and Israel typically has a lower unemployment rate than the United States.

The report is by Breaking Defense Israel correspondent Arie Egozi, an Israeli citizen who served in the Israeli military and is close to the Israeli security establishment.

Egozi’s article states that because of the coronavirus pandemic, “Israel’s Ministry of Defense and high command have hammered out an emergency plan for an appeal to Washington.”

The article, which carries a Tel Aviv dateline, reports: “Sources here say the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing Israel to ask Washington to make major changes to the [aid] agreement, including a request to receive the annual allocation $3.8 billion earlier than planned.”

US aid to Israel is normally disbursed in October, in a lump sum that is deposited to an interest-bearing Israeli account in the New York Federal Reserve Bank. (Since the US has been operating at a deficit, this means that the US government borrows the money and pays interest on it long after it has gone out.)

Potentially $14,000 per Minute from American Taxpayers

In addition to receiving the aid earlier than usual, a “senior source” quoted by Egozi suggests that Israel may request that the aid expected for 2024 also be disbursed this year.

If that happens, it would work out to nearly $21 million per day, or $14,460 per minute to Israel from American taxpayers suffering from a devastating hit to the US economy.

Moreover, it is highly likely that when 2024 comes around, the advance would be forgiven, as have numerous US “loans” to Israel, and Israel would get the aid again.

The current aid to Israel is based on a 2016 agreement by the Obama Administration to give Israel $3.8 billion annually for the next 10 years – a total of $38 billion, touted as the largest such aid package in US history. Overall, Israel has received more US aid than any other country, on average, 7,000 times more per capita than others.

While the Obama Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is a non-binding agreement, Israel has received this sum every year since it was signed. Israel advocates in Congress are currently seeking to cement it into a law that would permit this amount to go even higher in the future.

A ‘Wild Idea’ that Might Not Appeal to Americans

Egozi reports that the former president of Israel Aerospace Industries, Joseph Weiss, said asking for the money ahead of time is “a wild idea,” but said it “makes sense in the special conditions created [in Israel] by  the pandemic.”

However, it’s unlikely that this would make equivalent sense to Americans, who have been at least as hard hit by the pandemic.

Over 26 million Americans so far have lost their jobs, and many US companies are facing bankruptcy. A comment below Egozi’s article suggests how Americans would respond to a massive outlay to Israel this year:

“Why do Americans put up with all this money going to Israel when millions of them have no healthcare, no job, and are eating from food banks?”

To deflect such outrage, Israel partisans in the US typically defend the aid by saying that it eventually goes to US defense companies. However, they fail to mention that millions of the dollars go to Israeli companies that compete with American businesses, often leading to job losses in the US No other country receiving US military aid is allowed to do this.

In addition, many Americans feel that Israel should use its own money to purchase its weaponry, as the US does. They point out that if Americans wished to subsidize weapons companies, the US government could simply purchase items for American use.

Similarly, a growing number of Americans object to the uses Israel makes of US weapons, regularly deploying them in violation of both international law and US law (also this).

However, the pro-Israel lobby in the US is extremely influential in both political parties, and US media rarely report on aid to Israel, so the lump sum could slip through without notice.

An administration official recently said that Israel would not need to worry about money “even if there is a depression.”

Petition by Council for the National Interest

A critic of the aid, former CIA officer Philip Giraldi, points out that Israel is not an ally, and that it has often “done damage to the United States.” Giraldi, who is currently executive director of the Council for the National Interest (CNI), notes that Israel often spies on the US and has stolen American technology. It also tried to sink a US Navy ship, killing 34 Americans and injuring over 170.

Giraldi is asking people to sign a petition by CNI: “Stop the $3.8 Billion to Israel.”

The petition states: “…We need to take care of Americans and not send our tax money to a wealthy foreign country. Israel has already received billions of dollars from American taxpayers. It has received over $10 million per day, year after year. This year it’s time to keep our money home.”

Alison Weir is executive director of If Americans Knew, president of the Council for the National Interest, and author of Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the US Was Used to Create Israel.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.