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Israelis Wave American Flags

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    Just an optical illusion By Nehemia Shtrasler, Haaretz Correspondent 27/04/2007 http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/852930.html Although there are no official
    Message 1 of 1 , May 2, 2007
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      Just an optical illusion
      By Nehemia Shtrasler, Haaretz Correspondent
      27/04/2007
      http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/852930.html


      Although there are no official statistics, more Israelis apparently
      waved their national flag this past Independence Day. Perhaps this was
      out of a longing for a more innocent period, when the corrupt at least
      felt ashamed of their deeds, or perhaps the reason was that Bank
      Hapoalim distributed free flags. However, there was another
      phenomenon, unparalleled in any other nation: The Stars and Stripes
      were flown alongside the national flag. This is essentially a
      declaration that Israelis cannot celebrate their own independence day
      without remembering that their country's existence is wholly dependent
      on American backing.

      This backing has several aspects. One of them is the military and
      economic aid that Israel receives annually from Uncle Sam. In this
      regard, there will soon be a change, in five months' time. October 1
      will mark the last time Israel will receive economic aid (totaling
      $120 million) from the United States. This will be the closing chord
      of the economic aid Israel has received since the mid-1980s. After
      October 1, Israel will receive military aid only: $2.4 billion yearly.

      The process of gradually reducing the economic assistance began in
      1996, with a festive speech by then prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu
      to both houses of the U.S. Congress. In that address, he passionately
      declared that Israel had emerged from its childhood and was now mature
      enough to stand on its own two feet and achieve economic independence.
      Thus, he announced, Israel was waiving the economic aid that it had
      received until then from America. Members of Congress, who were moved
      by this gesture, gave Netanyahu a standing ovation, out of respect for
      someone willing to give up several hundred million dollars a year.

      However, the truth is that this was not a freely given concession; it
      was a response to American pressure.

      Today, 11 years after that festive "concession speech" and after
      Israel's celebration of its 59th year of independence, has Israel
      achieved the economic independence that Netanyahu promised? And is it
      politically independent?

      There are those who argue that Israel has already achieved economic
      independence: For the first time in Israeli history, there was a
      respectable surplus in our balance of payments, with exports exceeding
      imports by $0.9 billion and with a large surplus ($6.8 billion) in the
      current account. If we also factor in a rapid growth rate of five
      percent for the fourth consecutive year, a negligible inflation rate,
      the strengthening of the shekel vis-a-vis the dollar, a lower interest
      rate than in the U.S., and a decrease in unemployment, it is clear why
      many people believe that Israel has achieved economic independence.

      However, this is just an optical illusion. It is a sort of mirage,
      mere virtual reality - nothing more.

      If any American president were to give a small cough and say, in a
      half-whisper, "hmm, I am considering my steps concerning Israel," our
      country's excellent economic situation would immediately turn
      topsy-turvy. Israel's international credit line would instantly
      freeze, the dollar would soar, and so would our inflation rate. Our
      balance of payments surplus would become a deficit and foreign
      investment would flee Israel many times faster than it came. After
      all, the world knows that without American backing, tiny Israel would
      quickly revert to its natural proportions.

      Therefore, it really does not matter whether or not the economic aid
      ends in October. What is important is that Israel continue to enjoy
      the political support of the most powerful nation on earth. After all,
      were it not for America's veto in the United Nations Security Council,
      economic sanctions, a la South Africa during its apartheid regime,
      would have been imposed on Israel long ago. Without that veto, Israel
      would never have been able to continue fighting the Second Lebanon War
      when every other country in the world wanted it stopped as soon as it
      began.

      Anyone who needs further evidence of the sad fact that Israel is very
      far from independence - either economic or political - should know
      that Israel recently submitted another request for an increase in
      American military aid. Israel is now asking for a $50 million annual
      increment in the military grant, so that, in another 10 years' time,
      it would amount to $2.9 billion.

      In the current tense relationship between a Republican administration
      and a Democratic Congress, where there are sharp disagreements about
      every conceivable topic, there is only one subject on which President
      George Bush and Congress see eye-to-eye: unqualified support for
      Israel. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that Israel will soon
      receive that additional $50 million annually.

      And when the money arrives, Israelis will have yet another reason to
      lift the American flag high next Independence Day. On Israeli
      Independence Day, that is.

      *********************************************************************

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