Ha’aretz (online) reported today is that the IDF has decided to forgo buying American made cluster bombs and rely instead on Israeli Military Industries (IMI – also commonly referred to as Ta’as) for future purchases. According to the article, two years ago, during the Second Lebanon War, when Israel relied heavily on American made bombs, “between 30 percent and 40 percent of the bombs failed to explode on impact”. In addition to the obvious operational drawback to weapon that is effective only just over half of the times, unexploded cluter bombs have remained all over southern Lebanon have contituted a pretty significant risk to civilians in the area, and have even caused more than a few deaths after the end of the war. IMI, on the other hand, claims that its cluster bombs have a less than 1 percent rate of unexploded bombs.
Apart from these advantages, this is also a positive move on Israel’s part because it is relying on local industry for the state’s needs. Free trade notwithstanding, Israel purchases most of its weapons from the U.S using the extensive financial suport Israel receives in the form of military aid. Israel also receieves a few billion dollars every year as economic foreign aid.
While a nice gesture on America’s side, from an Israeli standpoint this is bad. Very bad. There was once a time Israel’s future was insecure and much of that was due to economic instability. That time is no more. By accepting foreign funds it has become, de facto, a patron state and is constantly beholden to the U.S. Israel cannot make foreign policy decisions, trade agreements or even determine its own domestic policy without requesting permission from the rich uncle on the other side of the ocean.
Also today, Ha’aretz reported that the U.S has approved the sale of 25 F-35 stealth fighter jets to Israel. From a military standpoint, I’m sure the top brass in Israel thinks this is great news. They are the experts, and in the short-term, they are probably right. However, if Israel were not reliant on America, and did not spend 75% of its aid in the United States, it would be forced to come up with solutions of its own. This is not to say that the U.S.-Israel relationship is of no use, or that it should be weakened. It should, however, be a relationship of equals. Not a patron-client relationship.
The Israeli economy is strong enough today to survive on its own. American aid to Israel needs to end now. A truly independent Israel would develop its own military technology and would not be reliant on the permission of foreign bodies to purchase items it deems necessary for its defense. It would develop them on its own. Israel has, after all, developed a superior tank, the tank. If actually forced to, Israel would be able to come up with a superior fighter jet as well. We are no longer in the era of the Lavi.
With a 21-year low employment rate of 6.1%, the 2007 inflation at 3.4% and the Shekel constantly strengthening against the US Dollar (even lately, when the Dollar has been doing better agains the Euro and the British Pound), Israel’s economy is not the flailing economy of a fledgling state any longer. If given the opportunity, we would be able to supply our military ourselves and make policy decisions without hypocritical American threats.
Traditionally, what happens on Rosh HaShana is a sign of what will happen throughout the coming year. Nevertheless, I hope this year does not follow this trend, and true Israeli independence will finally be a reality.