Rightly or wrongly, the national debt is issue No. 1 on Capitol Hill this year. Democrats and Republicans will be squaring off for months searching for a budget compromise that will satisfy their constituents, reflect their core values and leave them politically covered in the 2012 election.
So at a time when U.S. lawmakers are debating how much to cut the budget and how fast, news that Israel may ask the United States for $20 billion more in security aid comes as a puzzling development.
The United States currently allocates about $3 billion a year in military assistance to Israel, making the Jewish state one of its chief benefactors.
But Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told The Wall Street Journal this week that more aid is needed to help manage threats posed by the recent uprisings in the region, which he called “a movement in the right direction.”
But he also underscored Israel’s concern about unrest in Iran and Syria, and its impact.
We’re concerned, too, but now is not the time to ask Washington for more money.
Thankfully, Israel has devoted allies in both Houses of Congress, and in both parties. At a time when each side is struggling with what to cut and what to leave alone, not to mention at a time when grassroots anti-Israel sentiment is as strong as any time we’ve seen it, we think it’s wrong to push our friends into a corner.
A lot of vital domestic programs could see cuts to their budgets this year — education funding, health care programs, environmental initiatives could all be on the chopping block.
For any congressman to stand before his or her constituents and explain why he or she opposed funding for a cherished program but supported more military spending for Israel would be a difficult point to make. And that’s putting it mildly.
There’s a time to come to Washington with one’s hand out and a time to just come. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is preparing for a visit to the capital within the coming month, at which time it is anticipated he will propose a new peace initiative with the Palestinians.
Well and good, but at a time when the country is shouldering a record debt topping $13 trillion while looking at a $1.6 trillion deficit this year, and the voters back home expecting austerity, then let’s hope Bibi’s proposal doesn’t have a price tag attached.