Israel, arms sales, and our economy

Why does the United States support Israel?  Strategically speaking, our ardent support for a country that imposes apartheid on its almost-majority Arab population and frequently bombs its neighbors doesn’t make sense.  We have nothing to lose and everything to gain in the Arab world if we at least became an honest, objective arbiter of the conflict — and since it’s extremism from the Arab world that threatens us, wouldn’t the war on terror dictate us treating Israel with less favortism?

I would have trouble arguing against this.  American support for Israel simply isn’t logical.  So is it moral?  But if it’s moral then how can it support the 2006 war with Lebanon, or the current war with Gaza?

Perhaps money can explain this.

The United States gives Israel $3 billion a year in foreign aid along with selling arms to the country.  But how much in arms does Israel purchase?  There’s a dollar figure, but looking at dollars in relation to jobs is more eye-opening.

Last year, Israel topped Middle Eastern countries in arms purchases, with $20 billion in military equipment bought.  Much of that money went to US armaments corporations like Lockheed Martin, that (as the linked article reports) “Israel asked [the Pentagon] for permission to buy 75 jets in a deal that could reach just over $15b.”  That $15 billion, by the way, is not added into the $20 billion total for this year.

Money buys influence.  But how much influence is $20 billion in arms purchases?

To put this in tangible terms, let’s look at one government contract for nuclear submarines.  This is a contract, from the Navy to General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman, to build six Virginia-class nuclear submarines.  The cost?  $8.7 billion.  For General Dynamics part of the contract, it went to their subsidiary company, Electric Boat, who have shipyards in Rhode Island and Connecticut.  I knew about this contract because I worked at Electric Bost briefly in 2003, when it was annouced.

The work at EB is difficult and it doesn’t pay much at first, but if you stick around at least 5 years you become vested in the pension program — which is basically free.  Employees are also offered a 401(k) plan, health care, and a large enough paycheck to making a living in Rhode Island.  (Being close to Boston, this certainly isn’t the cheapest state to live in.)  Simply put, EB provides great paying manufacturing jobs.

And how many of those jobs are provided?  Electric Boat’s website says 10,500.  So that’s 10,500 good jobs for one-half of a $8.7 billion military contract. For Northrop Grumman’s part of the contract, their Newport News shipyard is used to build nuclear powered submarines and aircraft.  They employee 21,000 people there.  I don’t know how many of these employees work strictly on submarine building, but since Electric Boat employs 10,500, it’s reasonable to assume that half of NG’s workforce — also 10,500 — owe their jobs to the $8.7 billion contract for six submarines.

So in real world terms, rounding the contract to $9 billion, that’s worth 21,000 well-paying manufacturing jobs.  So if Israel purchases $20 billion in arms from the US, what this really means is that Israel is funding around 40,000 well-paying manufacturing jobs.

What are these jobs worth?  For starters, the families that they support, along with material costs (it takes a lot of steel to build a submarine), value to the community (these breadwinners purchase food, clothes, as well as toys for the kids, houses, etc.).  If Israel were to stop purchasing arms from the US, it would mean a lot more then simply the loss of 40,000 jobs; which is bad enough.

And unless Israel starts nuking its neighbors, it can launch all the wars it wants but the economy here will still be the number one issue.

Think about it: Israel, in effect, has any presidential administration’s metaphorical nuts in a vice.

Is this why the United States continues to support Israel, and nobody expects the Obama administration to change that policy?

8 Responses to “Israel, arms sales, and our economy”

  1. Alex says:

    Apartheid? Do you even know what apartheid means? Does a nation that imposes apartheid allow the same rights for Palestinians with Israeli citizenship? Does an apartheid nation allow Palestinian newspapers within its country? Does an apartheid nation allow Palestinians to form their own political parties and join the knesset? I can see why you American Liberals, who have absolutely no stake in the conflict, would side with the Palestinians. I mean, they are the perpetual losers, and are in a constant state of depravity, meanwhile Israel is flourishing. But when looking to toss the blame for the Palestinians current situation, only Israel is blamed, never the other Arab nations such as Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon, who are the most responsible for their current refugee status. Not even the Palestinians themselves are blamed. How could they? They are always on the losing side. Life isn’t that black and white though. In 60 years, under constant threat of war, Israel has managed to build up the only democracy (Well Turkey has also) in the Middle East. No, but you liberals never bitch and complain about the human rights abuses in the surroundiing Arab nations which are real and hundreds of times worse than anything Israel could ever do. Israel will never stop defending itself. So don’t bitch and cry about Israel accidently killing innocents, when innocents are deliberately targeted for killing by other regimes. You stupid fucking, unenlightened, liberal, fuckwits.

  2. radical_Moderate says:

    I think that your hunch is right, but I also think that 40 years of brain-washing vis a vis the Holocaust and the right of a “Jewish State” with the recent filip of Arab hatred thrown in for good measure, has inured the average American from questioning the morality of the strong bias this country has toward Israel, not to mention the influence of the Christian Zionists and the powerful and wealthy pro Israel organizations such as AIPAC exert on foreign policy in this country. Considering the influence of the neo cons, many of whom are pro-Israel jews, and this bias has only grown stronger in the last 8 years. Then too we have to consider the sub-text, in terms of America’s self-righteous insistence on it’s own ability to exert military force when it chooses, that to oppose Israel’s “right to defend itself” is to call into question some of the military decisions that American has made and will make.

  3. Kathy says:

    I deleted the anonymous message to Alex. Next time try turning off your caps key and posting with a name.

  4. Kathy says:


    Palestinians with Israeli citizenship do not have equal rights. Or, more precisely, they do on paper, but in reality they are treated as second-class citizens.

    That said, regardless of what terms you use to describe the condition of Palestinian Israelis, the word “apartheid” certainly applies to the treatment of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. The Wall that’s being built on the West Bank is called a security wall by Israel, but it’s really an apartheid wall. In order to build it, Israel is confiscating Palestinian lands and natural resources. It also traps large numbers of Palestinians in the No Man’s Land between the Wall itself and the Green Line. Those Palestinians will need permits to leave their homes every day, to cross into either their own state, or Israel. The Palestinians who are not actually enclosed by the wall will live (and already do live, because of the settlements) in little bantustans completely inaccessible to each other. They will be totally dependent on Israel for everything people need to survive: water, food, medicine, jobs, etc. On the other side of the wall, in Israel, people will have access to all the water, arable land, freedom of movement, etc., that they need.

    That is apartheid.

  5. radical_moderate says:

    Amen to your comments kathy, but I have given up on the right-wing’s ability to see the reality of this situation. The names I & others have been called (anti-semitic for non-Jews, “self hating” for the many Jews who also object) on other sites even though I am only pointing out the bigotry of discounting the deaths of so many of our fellow human-beings, and the assidious avoidence of knowing Historical Fact, such as the unlawful seizing of Palestinian land 60 years in service of claiming The Jewish State, lead me to this sad conclusion. I would also like to point out the hypocrisy of blaming all Palestinians for the actions of Hamas which brings to mind the Internment of Japanese citizens during WW2, or the assumption that all Germans were Nazis; most of us in the 21st Century recognize the speciousness of such assumptions, yet many usually rational people would like to blame the Palestinians at large for the woe that currently befalls them. One thing is certain: Israel will not be able to kill away the problem of the plight of a disenfranchised MAJORITY population…

  6. tas says:

    Amen to your comments kathy, but I have given up on the right-wing’s ability to see the reality of this situation.

    Aye. This is why I keep telling this morons to fuck off — I refuse to deal with them anymore. The dictionary is very clear on the definition of apartheid: “a policy or system of segregation or discrimination on the grounds of race.” If people like Alex can’t be bothered to read the dictionary when they quibble about simple terminology, then I can’t be bothered to talk with them like they’re adults. Because they’re not adults… Alex and his ilk are ill-tempered children who deserve to be backhanded after each instance of them fucking whining.

  7. AEWHistory says:

    Isn’t it cute how you distorted that Jpost article that says that it had been YEARS since Israel had bought that much in arms… meaning, of course, that the IDF inventory of hardware had stagnated. In fact, Israel spends far less money on defense than just Saudi Arabia, let alone the entire roster of hostile neighbor nations with which its security concerns rest:
    Israel – $9.4 to 13.3b
    Saudi Arabia – $18 to 31b

    You seem to have a problem differentiating between absolute spending, where Israel is badly outspent by its neighbors, and spending as a percentage of the economy, where Israel does tend to lead the world in order to close the gap on absolute military spending. So are you interested in real information, real discussion, and real knowledge…. or just polemics, propaganda, and pissing in the wind? Methinks it is the second. Nice try though…. this post is propaganda at its finest…. or most pathetic.

  8. AEWHistory says:

    Response to Israel as an Apartheid state:
    Jordan is ruled by the Hashemites, who constitute little more than 20% of the population, and hold virtually 100% of the political power. But according to people like the ones posting on this site, it is NOT an apartheid state. (I love that… can I have some of what you’re smoking please… it sounds like the good shit….)

    In Israel, Jews are 80% of the population, but apparently this version of apartheid it is the majority that has no right to rule.

    Now let’s concern ourselves with how Arabs are treated and compare the USA and Israel. Is the USA an apartheid state or just a democracy with problems? In the USA, the life expectancy of whites is about 78, blacks is 73; in Israel the life expectancy of Jews is about 79-80, Arabs 73-74. Now go back twenty-five and fifty years ago. Early in Israel’s history Arabs lived an avg. of about 43 years, Jews lived about 70. At the same time in the USA, whites and blacks had about a seven year life expectancy difference. Now move to the 80s and the gap got worse before it got better for blacks, meanwhile Arab health has never stopped getting better and better in Israel. Why do you think Israel has so many Arabs? It is becoming abundantly clear that birthrate can’t account for the entire growth of this population; Arabs are moving TO Israel, the little Satan, the evil Zionist entity, their great oppressor.

    Could Arabs be better off? Sure. But 93% of Israeli Arabs would live nowhere else in the world. Stuff that.

    PS- And I am a left-winger and in favor of a Palestinian state. But if you’re sick of right-wing stupidity, I’m sick of anti-semites–right and left-wing. Jews have rights and you people act as if it is our duty to be the world’s doormat to fit in your political vision.

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