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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Why the presidential candidates won't talk about Israel, Is it the money or is it the fear?

Why the presidential candidates won't talk about Israel

Analysts say politicians hold their tongues on giving additional US aid to Israel for fear of being labeled as anti-Semitic.

Israel, celebrating its 60th birthday last week, has proved to be an expensive ally for the United States.

Since its birth, Israel has received at least $114 billion from the US in direct foreign economic and military aid, says Shirl McArthur, a retired US diplomat who periodically updates his Israel cost estimates for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (WREMA), a magazine often critical of US policy toward Israel.

That estimate, Mr. McArthur notes, is conservative. For instance, he has not factored inflation into that $114 billion cumulative sum. The late Washington economist Thomas Stauffer did that calculation several years ago. He found total official aid to Israel, up to 2002, came to $247 billion. He added other costs of US support of Israel (interest on debt, higher oil prices, etc.) to reach a highly controversial total of $1.6 trillion.

For comparison, the cost to the US of the Iraq war is running about $144 billion a year.

In March, a Memorandum of Understanding from the White House to Congress urged an additional $30 billion in military aid to Israel, a sum spread at about $3 billion a year through fiscal year 2018. Currently, Israel ranks as the top recipient of American foreign aid ($2.4 billion in 2007 by an official calculation) if reconstruction money for Iraq is excluded. Next are Egypt ($1.8 billion) and Afghanistan ($1 billion).

Up to now, the presidential candidates have largely ducked the question of what they would do to further peace between Israelis and the Palestinians.

"It's quite remarkable it has not been raised," says Stephen Walt, coauthor of "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," a controversial book published last year. "They have gotten a free pass on details for a peace process."

The Harvard University political science professor further criticizes the press for not questioning the candidates about what they would do to push forward a two-state solution to the decades-old struggle with its sizable cost to American taxpayers. Presumably a lever the US has in the dispute is to withhold the aid it gives to Israel and the far smaller amount ($73.5 million requested for fiscal 2008) given to the Palestinians.

"The presidential candidates make it a point never to talk about Middle East foreign aid," says McArthur.

Why the silence?

"Fear," says Paul Findley, a frequent critic of US foreign policy to Israel. He blames the Israeli lobby for contributing to his defeat in 1982 when running for reelection as a Republican congressional representative from Illinois.

None of the three remaining presidential candidates have uttered "even a syllable" of complaint about US policy toward Israel, rather a "paean of praise," Mr. Findley says. "This is a phenomenon without precedent in American history."

To Findley, the "most powerful instrument of intimidation" used by pro-Israel groups is the charge of "anti-Semitism." The meaning of that term has been expanded. It used to be applied to those hostile to a race or faith, that is, against Jews or Judaism. Now it's often applied to critics of Israel or US-Israel policy, says Findley.

Considering the horrific history of the holocaust, politicians "run like rabbits" to avoid the charge of anti-Semitism, Findley adds.

Another fear of politicians involves the campaign contributions of pro-Israel political action committees (PACs). Last week WREMA reported that more than 20 of these PACs have contributed $1.1 million to Washington politicians in the 2007-08 election cycle. That amount is dwarfed by what the three presidential candidates have raised for their campaigns.

Since Israel now has a relatively prosperous per capita national income comparable to Cyprus or Slovenia, direct US economic aid to Israel has been replaced gradually by military aid. Since money is fungible, that would make little real economic difference to Israel as its government pays its high military bills. In fact, Congress allows Israel to use 26 percent of the aid it receives to buy arms outside the US, thereby helping build up its own weapons industry. "We are thus shooting ourselves [the US weapons industry] in the foot," charges Janet McMahon, managing editor of WREMA.

Professor Walt maintains he's pro-Israel. The US refusal to put pressure on Israel to settle with the Palestinians on a two-state solution, he argues, is not helpful.

"Giving any country unconditional backing encourages irresponsible behavior," he says. It could lead to an apartheid state, or as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert put it, Israel facing "a South African-style struggle."


Pro-Israel PACs Swett It Out in New Hampshire

By Janet McMahon

As part of their continuing campaign to keep John Sununu out of the U.S. Senate—an effort which failed in 2002, when then-Representative Sununu (R-NH) was first elected to “the world’s greatest deliberative body”—pro-Israel PACs bestowed a whopping $44,000 on would-be Democratic opponent Katrina Swett in 2007. In case that name doesn’t ring a bell, Swett is the daughter of the late Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA), who was one of Israel’s most ardent champions in the House. Her husband is former Rep. Dick Swett (D-NH), who, after two terms in the House and an unsuccessful Senate bid, managed to amass a respectable $95,500 in pro-Israel PAC contributions. Will Sununu’s Democratic opponent, former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, who received $72,022 in pro-Israel PAC contributions to oppose Sununu in 2002, find it in herself to rise above the spurn?

Top Ten 2008 and Career Recipients of Pro-Israel PAC Funds

Compiled by Hugh Galford

Berkley, Shelley (D-NV)
Levin, Carl (D-MI)
Hoyer, Steny (D-MD)
Swett, Katrina (D-NH)
Pence, Mike (R-IN)
Lautenberg, Frank (D-NJ)
Kirk, Mark (R-IL)
Pryor, Mark (D-AK)
Boehner, John (R-OH)
McConnell, Mitch (R-KY)
Cantor, Eric (R-VA)
Collins, Susan (R-ME)
Klein, Ron (D-FL)
Coleman, Norm (R-MN)
Crowley, Joseph (D-NY)
Durbin, Richard (D-IL)
Johnson, Tim (R-IL)
Reed, Jack (D-RI)
Bachmann, Michele (R-MN)
Landrieu, Mary (D-LA)
House: Career Senate: Career
Berkley, Shelley (D-NV)
*Levin, Carl (D-MI)
Engel, Eliot (D-NY)
*Harkin, Tom (D-IA)
Hoyer, Steny (D-MD)
Specter, Arlen (R-PA)
Obey, David (D-WI)
*Lautenberg, Frank (D-NJ)
Kirk, Mark (R-IL)
*McConnell, Mitch (R-KY)
Cantor, Eric (R-VA)
Lieberman, Joseph (D-CT)
Ros-Lehtinen, Ileana (R-FL)
*Durbin, Richard (D-IL)
Lowey, Nita (D-NY)
*Baucus, Max (D-MT)
Levin, Sander (D-MI)
Reid, Harry (D-NV)
Lantos, Tom (D-CA)
Wyden, Ronald (D-OR)
*up for re-election

Pro-Israel PAC Contributions to 2008 Congressional Candidates

State Office Dist. Candidate
Party Status 2007
Career Total Committees
Alabama S
Sessions, Jeff*
R I 21,500 218,325 AS, B

H 03 Rogers, Michael
R I 3,075 13,325 AS, HS

H 04 Aderholt, Robert
R I 1,000 15,500 A(HS)

H 06 Bachus, Spencer
R I 2,000 14,500

H 07 Davis, Artur
D I 1,000 81,067 W
Alaska S
Murkowski, Lisa
R I 1,000 53,600 FR

Stevens, Ted*
R I 10,000 85,200 A(D, HS), C, HS
Arizona H 05 Mitchell, Harry
D I 150 3,150

H 08 Giffords, Gabrielle
D I 4,150 11,374 AS, FR
Arkansas S
Pryor, Mark*
D I 37,500 47,000 AS, C, HS
California H 08 Pelosi, Nancy
D I 11,500 96,300 House Speaker

H 10 Tauscher, Ellen
D I 10,000 22,000 AS

H 11 McNerney, Jerry
D I 6,000 8,000

H 12 Lantos, Tom
D N 2,000 123,250 FR

H 24 Gallegly, Elton
R I 1,000 47,250 FR, I

H 27 Sherman, Brad
D I 1,000 54,930 FR(NE)

H 28 Berman, Howard
D I 1,000 68,050 FR(NE)

H 29 Schiff, Adam
D I 6,000 54,917 A(FO), I

H 30 Waxman, Henry
D I 1,000 37,832 C

H 36 Harman, Jane
D I 2,000 99,271 C, HS

H 37 Millender-McDonald, Juanita
D N 500 1,500

H 37 Richardson, Laura
D I 2,000 2,000

H 43 Baca, Joe
D I 1,000 1,000

H 47 Sanchez, Loretta
D I 2,000 47,700 AS, HS
Colorado S
Allard, Wayne*
R I –5,000 55,500 A, B

H 02 Udall, Mark
D I 2,500 13,750 AS

H 07 Perlmutter, Edwin
D I 150 7,374 HS
Connecticut H 02 Courtney, Joseph
D I 3,500 9,500 AS

H 03 DeLauro, Rosa
D I 1,000 46,400 A, B

State Office Dist. Candidate
Party Status 2007
Career Total Committees
Delaware S
Biden, Joseph Jr.*
D I 1,500 102,507 FR
Florida S
Nelson, Bill
D I –5,000 127,221 AS, B, C, FR, I

Klein, Bernard
D N 5,000 5,000

H 05 Brown-Waite, Virginia R I 2,000 6,300 HS

H 12 Putnam, Adam R I 1,000 7,500

H 16 Mahoney, Tim D I 4,000 6,000

H 17 Meek, Carrie D N 2,500 9,500

H 17 Meek, Kendrick D I 500 16,500 AS, W

H 18 Ros-Lehtinen, Ileana R I 7,500 133,490 FR

H 19 Wexler, Robert D I 7,000 20,750 FR(NE)

H 20 Wasserman Schultz, Debbie D I 4,500 16,000 A

H 21 Diaz-Balart, Lincoln R I 2,500 21,000

H 22 Klein, Ron D I 16,150 26,374 FR(NE)

H 23 Hastings, Alcee D I 5,000 54,350 I

H 25 Diaz-Balart, Mario R I 500 11,000 B
Georgia S
Chambliss, Saxby* R I 1,000 28,500 AS, I

H 04 Johnson, Henry Jr. D I 1,000 30,200 AS

H 04 Coyne, John III D N 2,000 2,000

H 07 Linder, John R I 500 20,650 W

H 12 Barrow, John D I 3,250 34,574 C
Illinois S
Durbin, Richard* D I 29,000 359,421 A(D, FO)

H 05 Emanuel, Rahm D I 3,500 22,500 W

H 06 Roskam, Peter R I 2,000 4,750

H 08 Bean, Melissa L. D I 5,250 43,529

H 08 Greenberg, Steven R C 5,000 5,000

H 09 Schakowsky, Janice D I 1,000 22,250 C, I

H 10 Kirk, Mark R I 27,000 156,882 A(FO)

H 11 Weller, Gerald R I 500 37,650 W

H 15 Johnson, Tim R I 13,000 23,500

H 17 Hare, Philip D I 1,000 6,650
Indiana H 02 Donnelly, Joseph D I 1,000 5,000

H 03 Souder, Mark E. R I 2,500 3,500 HS

H 05 Burton, Dan R I 7,000 94,000 FR

H 06 Pence, Mike R I 30,000 55,250 FR(NE)

H 08 Ellsworth, Brad D I 2,000 53,250 AS

H 09 Hill, Baron D I 3,500 28,465 C
Iowa S
Harkin, Tom* D I 6,000 526,950 A(D, FO)

H 02 Loebsack, David D I 2,000 2,000 AS
Kansas S
Brownback, Sam R I 500 103,850 A(FO)

Roberts, Pat* R I 22,500 22,500

H 02 Boyda, Nancy D I 2,150 2,150 AS
Kentucky S
McConnell, Mitch* R I 35,500 412,685 A(D, FO)
Louisiana S
Landrieu, Mary* D I 24,790 155,179 A (HS, FO), HS

Vitter, David R I 2,500 38,000 C, FR

H 03 Melancon, Charlie D I 2,000 29,100 C

H 05 Alexander, Rodney R I 2,500 11,000 A, B
Maine S
Collins, Susan* R I 33,500 89,000 AS, HS
Maryland S
Cardin, Benjamin D I –1,000 92,015 B, FR(NE)

H 05 Hoyer, Steny D I 32,500 171,775 House Majority Leader

H 07 Cummings, Elijah D I 2,000 20,500 AS
Massachusetts S
Kennedy, Edward D I 1,000 100,120 AS

Kerry, John* D I 9,000 20,252 C, FR(NE)
Michigan S
Levin, Carl* D I 61,850 720,737 AS, HS

H 11 McCotter, Thaddeus R I 1,000 11,500 FR

H 12 Levin, Sander D I 1,994 124,221 W
Minnesota S
Coleman, Norm* R I 31,000 71,980 FR(NE), HS

Klobuchar, Amy D I –5,000 32,835 C

H 06 Bachmann, Michele R I 13,000 16,500
Missouri S
Bond, Christopher R I 1,000 166,700 A(D, FO), I

McCaskill, Claire D I 5,000 19,335 AS, C, HS

H 04 Skelton, Ike D I 7,000 78,450 AS
Montana S
Baucus, Max* D I 15,000 342,648
Nevada H 01 Berkley, Shelley D I 34,700 283,405 W
H 03 Porter, Jon R I 4,000 5,000 B, W

State Office Dist. Candidate Party Status 2007 Cont. Career Total Committees
New Hampshire S Swett, Katrina* D N 44,000 44,000 B, W

H 01 Shea-Porter, Carol D I 2,000 2,000 AS

H 02 Hodes, Paul D I 8,000 10,600
New Jersey S
Lautenberg, Frank* D I 39,000 473,078 A(HS), B, C

Menendez, Robert D I –1,000 130,818 B, FR

H 01 Andrews, Robert D I 7,500 55,750 AS, B

H 02 LoBiondo, Frank R I 4,000 15,250 AS

H 03 Adler, John D O 1,000 1,000

H 03 Saxton, James R N 1,000 74,900 AS

H 07 Ferguson, Michael R I 1,000 11,000 C

H 09 Rothman, Steven D I 3,000 68,503 A(D, FO)

H 10 Payne, Donald D I 1,500 23,250 FR
New Mexico S
Domenici, Pete* R N 1,000 51,600 A(D, HS), B, HS

H 03 Udall, Tom D I 2,500 6,500 A
New York H 02 Israel, Steve D I 1,000 29,100 A(FO)

H 06 Meeks, Gregory D I 5,000 5,500 FR

H 07 Crowley, Joseph D I 15,745 91,902 FR, W

H 09 Weiner, Anthony D I 1,000 23,050 C

H 15 Rangel, Charles D I 7,000 23,500 W

H 17 Engel, Eliot D I 11,000 193,418 C, FR(NE)

H 18 Lowey, Nita D I 12,000 130,738 A(FO), HS

H 19 Hall, John D I 3,000 3,000

H 20 Gillibrand, Kirsten D I 5,250 9,250 AS

H 24 Arcuri, Michael D I 2,150 8,150

H 26 Reynolds, Thomas R I 1,000 10,000 W
North Carolina H 10 McHenry, Patrick R I 3,000 31,000 B

H 11 Shuler, Joseph Heath D I 3,250 6,250
North Dakota S
Conrad, Kent D I 1,000 270,539 B
Ohio S
Brown, Sherrod D I 0 63,750

H 01 Chabot, Steve R I 1,000 13,500 FR(NE)

H 02 Schmidt, Jeannette R I 1,500 1,500

H 08 Boehner, John R I 27,000 51,500 House MLeader

H 18 Space, Zachary D I 3,150 10,150
Oklahoma S
Inhofe, James* R I 13,000 102,800 AS
Oregon S
Smith, Gordon* R I 23,000 91,089 C
Pennsylvania S
Specter, Arlen R I 3,000 492,973 A(D, FO, HS)

H 04 Altmire, Jason D I 5,250 7,250

H 07 Sestak, Joseph D I 3,150 12,150 AS

H 08 Murphy, Patrick D I 6,000 10,250 AS, I

H 13 Schwartz, Allyson D I 5,500 35,650 B, W
Rhode Island S
Reed, Jack* D I 27,500 134,850 A(FO), AS

H 02 Langevin, James D I 3,000 20,000 HS, I
South Carolina S
Graham, Lindsey* R I 19,000 36,500 AS, B

H 06 Clyburn, James D I 3,500 8,100 House M Whip
South Dakota S
Thune, John R I 1,000 13,230 AS, C
Tennessee H 03 Wamp, Zach R I 1,000 5,000 A

H 06 Gordon, Bart D I 2,000 60,900 C

H 09 Cohen, Steve D I 4,000 7,000
Texas S
Cornyn, John* R I 13,500 29,980 AS, B

H 17 Edwards, Chet D I 2,000 66,200 A(HS), B

H 22 Lampson, Nicholas D I 1,000 35,506

H 23 Rodriguez, Ciro D I 2,000 6,000 A(HS)

H 28 Cuellar, Henry D I 1,000 3,500 HS
Virginia S
Warner, Mark D O 2,000 2,000

H 07 Cantor, Eric R I 25,500 156,730 W

H 10 Wolf, Frank R I 11,500 69,500 A(FO)

H 11 Davis, Thomas III R N 1,000 18,000 HS
Washington H 02 Larsen, Rick D I 1,000 18,500 AS

H 06 Dicks, Norman D I 1,000 27,850 A(D), HS

H 08 Reichert, Dave R I 2,000 4,500 HS
West Virginia S
Rockefeller, John IV* D I 16,500 229,700 C, I
Wisconsin H 07 Obey, David D I 6,000 158,100 A

H 08 Kagen, Steven D I 4,000 9,000

Kerry, John

14,000 20,252

TOTAL for 2007-2008 Election Cycle

TOTAL 1978-2008 Funds to Congressional Candidates

TOTAL No. of Recipient Candidates, 1978-2008

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