The Jewish Week (Editorial)
June 12, 2008 - 4:00pm

Media accounts of last week’s policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) naturally focused on presidential politics.

But the policy conference had a number of other resounding messages, including this one: U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation is stronger than ever. Once more a slogan than reality, the idea of a genuine partnership between the two nations has become an everyday fact of life on Capitol Hill and at the Pentagon.

Israel continues to be the top recipient of U.S. aid, but it is important to note that most of that assistance is used to buy American-built weapons systems. And often overlooked is the fact this is a two-way street; Israel supplies high tech systems that are increasingly vital to all branches of the military.

At the Pentagon there is a growing awareness of how the partnership with Israel benefits both countries in an age when both face new and complex strategic challenges.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi surprised even some AIPAC lobbyists last week when she used the policy conference to announce that the first $170 million in security assistance authorized in a Memorandum of Understanding for increased U.S. military aid over the next decade will be included in a supplemental spending bill coming up in the House soon.

Recognizing Israel’s urgent military needs, congressional leaders are moving quickly and in a bipartisan fashion.

There was a time when AIPAC lobbyists had to work hard to keep Israel’s aid from being cut, or to fight administrations that sought to use aid as a bludgeon to enforce U.S. policy goals on a reluctant government in Jerusalem.

Today, maintaining that aid is as close to a given as there is in politics, and it is one of few issues that is genuinely bipartisan.

Critics say it’s all political — a payoff to a powerful constituency — and there is a kernel of truth in that.  The pro-Israel lobby has made support for Israel a plus for politicians, and there’s little question national leaders who do not support strong U.S.-Israeli relations can pay a political price.

But in good lobbying, political expedience can be the germ that grows into genuine friendship.  In the case of the U.S.-Israel strategic relationship, that appears to be what has happened.

Israel may be the biggest recipient of U.S. aid, but that military assistance is part of a deepening strategic partnership that is good for both nations.


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