September 1, 2011
If West’s serious, why back more weapons for Israel?
At a recent town hall meeting in Palm Beach Gardens, U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Plantation, defended his vote on the debt-limit deal as a first step toward cutting federal spending. His belt-tightening rhetoric would be more convincing if he had not spent part of his August recess in Israel on a junket designed to increase U.S. spending on weapons to Israel.
It is questionable whether Rep. West’s participation in this junket was even legal, according to congressional travel guidelines prohibiting lobbying organizations from paying for trips. The trip is nominally sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, a “charitable affiliate” of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the most influential of the myriad pro-Israel lobbying groups. However, AIPAC pays the staff salaries at its sister organization, making this a seeming violation of post-Abramoff ethics rules.
Making matters worse, Rep. West was lobbied to increase the debt by sending more weapons to a country that has been engaged in a 44-year military occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip that denies Palestinians freedom and self-determination. Surely the deficit-reducing tea party favorite would be hard-pressed not to agree that ending military aid to Israel as a sanction for it misusing U.S. weapons to commit systematic human rights abuses against Palestinians is the right thing to do .
If we are going to tame government spending, Rep. West should reconsider the $30 billion in weapons pledged to Israel from 2009 to 2018. Based on our calculations, using IRS data, his constituents are on the hook for $87 million of this earmark. Israel is not a sacred cow, and our bankrolling of its human rights abuses of Palestinians comes at a price we can no longer afford.
Editor’s note: Josh Ruebner is national advocacy director of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. He is a former analyst in Middle East affairs at the Congressional Research Service.