Qualitative Military Edge — another name for US-backed Israeli brutality

US Politics
on 60 Comments

On October 15, 2008, just three weeks before the US presidential election, George Bush signed into law the Naval Vessel Transfer Act which had been sponsored by one of Israel’s most loyal supporters in the US Congress, Rep. Howard Berman.

The new law, which from its title might have been assumed to relate primarily to the sale of ships from the US Navy to foreign governments, actually had a much more important purpose: to place every American president under a legal obligation to ensure that Israel maintains its military dominance over the Middle East.

What had previously been a matter of foreign policy, suddenly became law — law written to meet the interests of a foreign government.

Israel’s regional hegemony is legally enshrined in the concept of Israel’s “Qualitative Military Edge” (QME). The US Government must now guarantee that “the sale or export of the defense articles or defense services will not adversely affect Israel’s qualitative military edge over military threats to Israel.”

The law states:

[T]he term ‘qualitative military edge’ means the ability to counter and defeat any credible conventional military threat from any individual state or possible coalition of states or from non-state actors, while sustaining minimal damages and casualties, through the use of superior military means, possessed in sufficient quantity, including weapons, command, control, communication, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities that in their technical characteristics are superior in capability to those of such other individual or possible coalition of states or non-state actors. [Emphasis mine.]

Andrew J Shapiro is the Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs. One of his primary responsibilities is to ensure that Israel maintains its qualitative military edge. Does he serve the US government or the Israeli government? It’s far from clear.

This is how he presented the United States’ obligation to serve Israel’s interests in a speech he delivered at the Brookings Institute in Washington on Friday:

For decades, the cornerstone of our security commitment to Israel has been an assurance that the United States would help Israel uphold its qualitative military edge — a commitment that was written into law in 2008. Israel’s QME is its ability to counter and defeat credible military threats from any individual state, coalition of states, or non-state actor, while sustaining minimal damages or casualties. The Obama Administration has demonstrated its commitment to Israel’s QME by not only sustaining and building upon practices established by prior administrations, but also undertaking new initiatives to make our security relationship more intimate than ever before.

Each and every security assistance request from the Israeli Government is evaluated in light of our policy to uphold Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge. At the same time, QME considerations extend to our decisions on defense cooperation with all other governments in the region. This means that as a matter of policy, we will not proceed with any release of military equipment or services that may pose a risk to allies or contribute to regional insecurity in the Middle East.

The primary tool that the United States uses to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge is security assistance. For some three decades, Israel has been the leading beneficiary of U.S. security assistance through the Foreign Military Financing program, or FMF. Currently, Israel receives almost $3 billion per year in U.S. funding for training and equipment under FMF. The total FMF account is $5 billion annually and is distributed among some 70 countries. So it is a testament to our special security relationship that each year Israel accounts for just over 50 percent of U.S. security assistance funding distributed through FMF.

The Obama Administration is proud to carry on the legacy of robust U.S. security assistance for Israel. Indeed, we are carrying this legacy to new heights at a time when Israel needs our support to address the multifaceted threats it faces.

For Fiscal Year 2010, the Administration requested $2.775 billion in security assistance funding specifically for Israel, the largest such request in U.S. history. Congress fully funded our request for FY 2010, and we have requested even more — $3.0 billion — for FY 2011. These requests fulfill the Administration’s commitment to implementing the 2007 memorandum of understanding with Israel to provide $30 billion in security assistance over 10 years.

This commitment directly supports Israel’s security, as it allows Israel to purchase the sophisticated defense equipment it needs to protect itself, deter aggressors, and maintain its qualitative military edge. Today, I can assure you that — even in challenging budgetary times — this Administration will continue to honor this 10-year, $30 billion commitment in future fiscal years. [Emphasis mine.]

Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin challenged Shapiro during Q&A:

[I]t pains me to hear you sound more like an agent of the Israeli government than a U.S. representative because as you travel around the world you see that this “special relationship” really endangers us, makes us more hated around the world. So I wonder if you would be willing to step in other shoes and go to Gaza, see the results of the Israeli invasion there, see the destruction, talk to people in Gaza, talk to the elected government, which is Hamas. You don’t have to like them to talk to them. I also wonder if you’ve spent any time with people in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to see what it feels like for Palestinians, the daily humiliations they suffer.

And I also wonder, given the financial crisis here at home and the great needs of impoverished nations around the world, couldn’t you think of a better use of $3 billion than giving it to a wealthy country like Israel that is abusing the human rights of Palestinians on a daily basis?

Benjamin drew a round of applause — Shapiro declined to respond directly to her challenge.

As Shapiro noted, the concept of Israel’s QME has been in use for decades, but it was only when the Bush administration let Israel draft American law, that QME turned into a license to use force with impunity.

In January 2008, William Wunderle, a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, and Andre Briere, a U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel, wrote in a paper for The Washington Institute for Near East Policy:

The US commitment to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME) is a long-standing tradition that every president since Lyndon Johnson has maintained and reiterated. The basic principle behind this commitment is simple: Israel is a bastion of liberal representative government in the Middle East, and, as such, its continued survival is a vital national interest of the United States. To ensure this longtime ally’s continued existence in a sea of nations that reflexively call for its destruction, Israel must be able to defend itself militarily and deter potential aggression. In this effort, Israel will always be militarily outnumbered with regard to the artillery, tanks, and combat aircraft that can be deployed by a coalition of Arab states. Israel’s continued survival can be ensured only if it is able to maintain qualitative military superiority, relying on superior weaponry, tactics, training, leadership, and other factors of military effectiveness to deter or defeat its numerically superior adversaries in the Middle East.

In other words, the US policy advocated that Israel should be able to counter a quantitative disadvantage with a qualitative advantage. It said nothing about supporting Israel’s use of that advantage at minimal cost. The expression after all was qualitative military edge — not supremacy.

These analysts noted however that:

Israel defines QME as “the ability to sustain credible military advantage that provides deterrence and, if need be, the ability to rapidly achieve superiority on the battlefield against any foreseeable combination of forces with minimal damage and casualties.”

The Israeli phrasing went straight into US law which says that Israel must maintain the ability to use military force “while sustaining minimal damages and casualties.”

Let’s put that in context. The law was signed just two years after Israel had visibly lost its qualitative military edge in Lebanon in 2006 when it faced Hezbollah, and less than three months before it used the assault on Gaza to once again demonstrate its ability to wreak massive destruction while sustaining minimal damages and casualties.

The war on Gaza, which President-elect Obama watched in silence, showed not merely the brutality that Israel is willing to use under America’s political protection, but the extent to which Israel’s military agenda is empowered through its ability to control the United States Government.

The war on Gaza was QME in action.

This is cross-posted at Woodward’s site, War in Context.

60 Responses

  1. Citizen
    July 19, 2010, 10:32 am

    Here’s Shapiro’s whole speech:
    link to state.gov

    “Currently, Israel receives almost $3 billion per year in U.S. funding for training and equipment under FMF. The total FMF account is $5 billion annually and is distributed among some 70 countries.” Israel is the only state that is partially exempt from spending its free US dollars on its own manufactured stuff. Iron Dome is additional to that 3 billion. Shapiro’s speech should be emailed to everyone in the USA looking for a job & broadcast on TV. Beck, where are you? Oh yeah, fighting Obama’s socialism…

  2. David Samel
    July 19, 2010, 10:37 am

    In these tough economic times, wouldn’t it make sense to downsize and merge our Defense Department with Israel’s Defence Ministry, and our State Department with Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs? Why this unnecessary duplication of effort and surplus of personnel? The money saved could be used for purchase of military equipment to maintain Israel’s military advantage.

    In real life, of course, the QME is interpreted as the ability to destroy the defensive capabilities of those Israel wishes to attack. God forbid Hamas acquire cement which theoretically could be used to construct bunkers that might withstand Israeli bombs and frustrate Israel’s ability to kill whom it wants when it wants. Hamas is not allowed to hide behind civilians or bunkers.

    Actually, I was completely unaware of this law, and as cynical as I am, I am shocked to learn of it. I would hope there is a constitutional challenge available.

    • Avi
      July 19, 2010, 4:09 pm

      But, David, if the two bureaucracies merged, the employees would need to speak both Hebrew and English. The cost of training bilingual clerks might offset the savings.

      Now, in all seriousness, this relationship between the two countries is unprecedented. I don’t recall a time in recorded modern history when one small country of a few million controlled a superpower, an empire.

      So, along the same lines of your proposition, perhaps it’s time Israel became part of the Union. Congress could accord it special status like that of the District of Columbia. And, once all the representatives and politicians moved to Israel they could pass legislation that reflected their geographic distance from the people, as opposed to the current situation in which Congress is but a few blocks from the poorest neighborhoods in D.C., but its members are oblivious to it all – some kind of cognitive distance is certainly at play there.

  3. hayate
    July 19, 2010, 10:55 am

    QME allows the israelis to maintain their innate cowardice, and still commit war crimes with impunity. As for the usa’s role in facilitating the israeli war machine, they’re being good little poodles, doing what an imperialist colony should be doing for their masters. As long as the usa remains an israeli colony, these laws and policies are to be expected.

    • hayate
      July 19, 2010, 11:01 am

      In fact, expect much worse as the zionist position within the world deteriorates and they get more desperate. A good place to look to see what can be expected of zionism, incs reaction to their decline can be found in the internal workings of Germany in 1944-5. One can already see some of that fanatical desperation within israel now with some of the recent happenings in their kenneset. Naturally, they will eventually have to implement similar desperate measures on their american colony should there be any sign of american rebellion.

  4. Citizen
    July 19, 2010, 11:07 am

    So, let’s see… QME means the US is the insurance company for Israel whenever Israel claims it is threatened by anyone. By US law. So, if the Arab countries buy more updated US arms to defend themselves against that eternal interloper, Iran, why then every US President, by law, has to give Israel even better arms–to assure its hegemony (“security”). Hamas or Hezbollah gets a few updated Dinky Toy rockets, Israel gets Iron Dome–and what else additional to the 3 billion per year? The US government is insane.
    I didn’t know huge injections of zioncaine were quite that mandatory each time
    a US official takes his or her oath of orifice. Check this out, the late 2009 Sharp Report on US Aid To Israel:
    link to docs.google.com

  5. Leper Colonialist
    July 19, 2010, 12:38 pm

    As Dickens [?] had one of his characters say, sometimes “the law is an ass.”

    Wonder if there will be any consistent followup to insure that US military high technology bestowed upon the wonderous Israelis doesn’t illegally get transferred to the PRC or other countries?

  6. Sin Nombre
    July 19, 2010, 1:41 pm

    Interesting that Mr. Berman’s law seems to have discounted the idea that Israel will ever truly be at peace with its neighbors and has saddled us U.S. citizens with this obligation for time immemorial now. No provision for when the law is to expire, or giving the President the power to end it upon Israel finding itself at peace with all its neighbors, nor to suspend it if for whatever reason if for whatever reason it was clearly against U.S. interests, or if the U.S. were to go bankrupt, nor indeed any provision for it to end, ever. We have, in essence, been made into the equivalent of a permanent host animal, legally forbidden regardless of reason to ever shed a free-rider, no matter how debilitating or harmful to ourselves that may *ever* be.

    Also interesting … notice how there’s nothing in that law that puts any burden on Israel whatsoever, and indeed in fact tremendously alleviates what past burden it has had? In other words the law now perfectly allows Israel to *decrease* its contribution to its own defense, because of course this then obligates the U.S. to then *increase* its contribution to meet this qualitative edge standard.

    This is beyond a sweet deal, it’s Through the Looking-Glass.

    Interesting times these. Has there ever been any instance before in history where a major or even minor host state has become so beholden to what amounts to a client state?

    • potsherd
      July 19, 2010, 7:11 pm

      When Israel makes war on the US, the treason will become apparent.

    • thankgodimatheist
      July 19, 2010, 9:35 pm

      “No provision for when the law is to expire, or giving the President the power to end it upon Israel finding itself at peace with all its neighbors,”

      Maybe that’s because they know, we know and you know there will never be peace between Israel and its neighbours..It’s not configured in the blueprint ofr zionism. You cannot square a circle.. For further hints, check Jabotinsky’s Iron Wall doctrine.

      • thankgodimatheist
        July 19, 2010, 9:40 pm

        Other than that, you were spot on..The US as a host animal for Israel is interesting..

      • sherbrsi
        July 19, 2010, 9:48 pm

        “No provision for when the law is to expire, or giving the President the power to end it upon Israel finding itself at peace with all its neighbors,”

        The only way Israel will find peace with its neighbors is when it has completely devastated them into submission and permanent occupation of territory and resources.

        The rationale that the provision of aid will bring about peace is nonsensical. For one, the primary reason given for America’s support for Israel is that it remain America’s imperialist outpost in the ME. Though that hypothesis remains weak, it is nevertheless true that ideological support for Israel remains grounded on that notion. Secondly, even if Israel were to achieve peace with its neighbors (doubtful, considering that it has snubbed advances by both Qatar and Syria for peaceful relations, and the Zionist taste for war and land conquest), the Zionists in America would still argue for the aid on preventative grounds.

        In the long-term, this law will prove to be helpful for further distinguishing the great odds America goes to in order to appease the endlessly demanding Israelis.

  7. Egbert
    July 19, 2010, 3:08 pm

    It is asserted that US and Israel’s interests are identical. The US has an interest in Afghanistan and the major (though not Special and True Friend) allies are pulling out leaving us to carry the weight. Given all the money and military aid Israel gets, it can surely spare some boots on the ground for the hearts and mind operations. Come on Israel, get some troops in there with us.

  8. Bumblebye
    July 19, 2010, 3:21 pm

    Time for another cartoon from John Cole – do one of NYahoo as George III, demanding taxes from his colony. The various dual nationals/Israel Firsters as his Regents or Viceroys. That seems to be a fair representation of the legal status now.

  9. Citizen
    July 19, 2010, 3:39 pm

    What average American will believe we are locked in by our own law to secure Israel against everyone and anything? This is beyond psychological enmeshment. Imagine George Washington looking at this law. Cute the way it’s billed as a navy boat transfer.

    • RoHa
      July 19, 2010, 7:17 pm

      This might be a better lever for an anti-Israeli backlash in the U.S. than reference to the Liberty.

  10. jonah
    July 19, 2010, 4:10 pm

    Shapiro was quite clear in his speech with regard to the political dimension of the QME-strategy of the US administration. Israel security must be bolstered through intense military cooperation at all levels with the US in order to reinforce its defence potential against the multifaceted threats it is facing today. Behind these efforts there is the realistic understanding that only and solely a military strong Israel can deter its foes and can make a peace with the moderate Palestinian camp and the moderate Arab forces possible. In this sense, the QME-policy of the US-administration appears responsible and far-sighted. Obama is showing that he is not only fully committed to Israel’s security but, by strongly supporting Israel, also and first of all committed to the peace process.
    No coincidence that he has lately reiterated to Abbas the U.S. commitment to the creation of a viable Palestinian state side by side with Israel. I think that soon or later both sides will sit down and talk. Netanyahu has already and repeatedly asked direct talks, Abbas and all the moderate Palestinian people must for their part understand that there are no alternatives to peace talks, even if the starting conditions are not the best. The window of opportunities for a state is not open for ever and in September the settlements activity in the West Bank will restart as usual.
    I hope they will not miss again this chance for peace and for a own state. IF they want one (I’m not really sure, considering how abrubtly and nearly angrily Abbas and his entourage reacted to Olmert’s offer).

    • jonah
      July 19, 2010, 4:31 pm

      A propos Olmert, Abbas and the peace offer:

      link to theaustralian.com.au

    • RoHa
      July 19, 2010, 7:15 pm

      “only and solely a military strong Israel can deter its foes and can make a peace with the moderate Palestinian camp and the moderate Arab forces possible. ”

      But Israel has been militarily strong for decades, and has consistently shot down all chances for peace deals. Israel’s strength makes peace impossible, since Israel doesn’t feel it needs a peace deal.

      “in September the settlements activity in the West Bank will restart as usual.”

      It never stopped.

    • thankgodimatheist
      July 19, 2010, 9:42 pm

      “against the multifaceted threats it is facing”

      The only multifacetted thing I see is a stone thrown by an 11 years old kid..

      • jonah
        July 20, 2010, 1:52 am

        Maybe because you are used to keep your head in the sand….

        …. Or maybe because you never stopped playing with sand…..

      • sherbrsi
        July 20, 2010, 2:30 am

        This coming from a Hasbarat who claims that Israel has never ethnically cleansed in Israel or the OT.

        Don’t ever lose your hypocrisy, dear Zionazi.

      • Shingo
        July 20, 2010, 2:53 am

        “Don’t ever lose your hypocrisy, dear Zionazi.”

        Let’s hope not.  He’s already lost his mind, his honesty, his morality and humanity.  Once the hypocrisy’s gone, there will be nothing left.

      • jonah
        July 20, 2010, 3:40 am

        I’m surely less hypocrite than you all together – supposed human rights champions, since you still have to provide basic evidence that your are not simply little wretched appeasers (or even supporters) of Islamofascism à la Ahmad&Hams&Hez.

      • Shingo
        July 20, 2010, 3:51 am

        Hear that guys? Jonah expects us to provide evidence to him that we’re in favor of human rights while he spews racist bile all over the floor.

        He sounds just like Witty.

      • Walid
        July 20, 2010, 4:19 am

        Jonah, maybe you need another opinion about Israel’s record on human rights:

        “… “Of all the major players on the scene since WWII, Israel has become the greatest human rights violator.”

        link to themagneszionist.blogspot.com

      • jonah
        July 20, 2010, 5:52 am

        About you I have no doubt anymore, Shingo.

      • Shingo
        July 20, 2010, 5:57 am

        Your opinion of me Jonah, is about a consequential as Pol Pot’s.

  11. Oscar
    July 19, 2010, 4:34 pm

    The QME is an excuse for Israeli to brutalize the civilian population with impunity. Andrew Shapiro, this one is dedicated to you:
    link to uruknet.com

  12. Gaius Baltar
    July 19, 2010, 5:06 pm

    Does the law require Israel to have military superiority over the US? We are a Middle East power, after all.

    • hayate
      July 19, 2010, 6:09 pm

      What if that happened and the friendly fire prone u.s. forces accidentally friendly fired a group of israeli soldiers?

      • hayate
        July 19, 2010, 6:11 pm

        Oops, messed up, that was supposed to be a reply to:

        Egbert July 19, 2010 at 3:08 pm

  13. rosemerry
    July 19, 2010, 6:06 pm

    The speech was completely disgusting, but the comments are all great-thanks! How the US can keep pretending Israel is some sort of democratic ally and then be surprised that a few muslims react amazes me.

  14. sherbrsi
    July 19, 2010, 7:23 pm

    I can assure you that — even in challenging budgetary times — this Administration will continue to honor this 10-year, $30 billion commitment in future fiscal years.

    Good to know that America prioritizes the keeping of regional hegemony of Israel over the prosperity of its own citizens in dire economic times.

    When Netanyahu said that America could be easily moved, I thought the statement would be a revelation to many. But now it seems he missed the mark. By legislating the most liberal provision of aid to a foreign state, and making it a routine function of the American government, Netanyahu only underestimated the capacity of the Israeli tail wagging the American dog.

  15. sherbrsi
    July 19, 2010, 9:54 pm

    I wonder what implications this law has on America using the provision of aid as a bargaining chip. Realistically, aid for Israel was a routine activity, remains so and likely will in the future, so the legislating of the law doesn’t change anything on the ground. However, the law would definitely now impose a legal barrier (on top of the political standoff and implications from the Israel lobby) to any president who hopes to influence Israel in any manner. As has been recounted on this site many times, the most effective manner in which American presidents have pressured and gained from Israel is by threatening to, or actually withholding aid. The triumph of this law remains that now any American leader who even wills to change the status quo will face insurmountable resistance and constrains in the form of this law, and Israel’s agents in the American congress.

    In other words, the Israelis are comfortably settling into the White House and exercising their virtual monopoly over American policy dictates on the conflict.

  16. Interested Bystander
    July 19, 2010, 10:05 pm

    Israel has had MFN status with the U.S. in the Middle East since ’48. Should we change that now because we don’t like what they are doing with the occupation? Should we, for example, sell cruise missiles F-18’s and stealth bombers to Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, stop selling arms to the Israelis and get out of the way? I suppose some here would advocate this. Not me.

    22 USCS § 2776 reads in relevant part as follows:


    “h) Certification requirement relating to Israel’s qualitative military edge. (1) In general. Any certification relating to a proposed sale or export of defense articles or defense services under this section to any country in the Middle East other than Israel shall include a determination that the sale or export of the defense articles or defense services will not adversely affect Israel’s qualitative military edge over military threats to Israel.”

    . . . in other words we shouldn’t sell arms to Syria, Egypt, Jordan, or Iraq if it is going to adversely affect Israel’s ability to defend itself. That is different from saying that the President must sell arms to Israel to maintain Israel’s superiority, which the post seems to say.

    The solution is not the destruction of Israel. Destruction of Israel will not bring justice to the Palestinians, and it certainly won’t bring justice to Israelis. Me . . . I want everyone in Palestine to thrive, Jews and Palestinians alike. Military instability is not the solution.

    • thankgodimatheist
      July 19, 2010, 10:53 pm

      Gee bystander! It took you quite some time to come out of the woodwork..You see! Not all that hard, is it?

      • Interested Bystander
        July 20, 2010, 12:09 am

        You are being a bit obtuse here TGA. Are you really saying you are for the violent destruction of Israel, and that the U.S. should support that as policy? Do you think that’s what Phil Weiss supports? Are you saying that we should strive for something other than that both Israelis and Palestinians should thrive? If you are not saying that, I’m afraid I’m not following you on your comment. Perhaps you can clarify?

      • sherbrsi
        July 20, 2010, 12:36 am

        Are you really saying you are for the violent destruction of Israel, and that the U.S. should support that as policy

        Do you have any more hasbara memes to offer, bystander?

      • Interested Bystander
        July 20, 2010, 1:31 am


        This Hasbara word is way overused around it here. It is thrown up, as it seems to be here, to avoid thinking. The question is a fair question in light of the post, and frankly much of what is said on this site. You can answer the question any way you like, but running away from it by calling it Hasbara is lazy and not honest.

        If your answer is “yes” then that should merit some open and thoughtful discussion on this site. If the answer is “no,” then it’s still worth noting that some positions taken here do imply it.

      • sherbrsi
        July 20, 2010, 2:24 am

        This Hasbara word is way overused around it here.

        The Hasbara word is overused because Hasbara propaganda is prevalent.

        You can answer the question any way you like, but running away from it by calling it Hasbara is lazy and not honest.

        No where in this thread or subject post did anyone even bring up wanting the violent destruction of Israel, yet you charge TGIA with suggesting just that. Since you are the only one making that accusation here without any prior evidence, it is only logical to assume that you are resorting to trolling as per the Hasbara tactics (which does advocate framing discussion in such a manner.) Thus, your charge of asking TGIA whether she wants the violent destruction of Israel is just about as much warranted as me asking you why you beat your wife. And just about as relevant.

      • thankgodimatheist
        July 20, 2010, 3:25 am

        “Are you really saying you are for the violent destruction of Israel, and that the U.S. should support that as policy?”
        I don’t think this was the premise in what you were talking about (you oppose the sale of weapons to Arab countries and the necessity for Israel to always have an edge) and to which I objected..That’s the closest thing I know to what is commonly called a straw man argument..While I never hid my opinions on the urgency of bringing down Zionism, an ultra-nationalistic political/ideological doctrine, to its knees, something which I share the overwhelming majority on this site, “violently destroying” Israel is not on my agenda as I’m fully booked for the next 2 months or so..So please, as tempting as it is sometimes, don’t put words in my mouth and I promise I’ll do the same.

      • Walid
        July 20, 2010, 4:24 am

        “… Zionism, an ultra-nationalistic political/ideological doctrine…”

        TGIA, the word that best says it all is “cult”.

    • sherbrsi
      July 19, 2010, 11:19 pm

      Military instability is not the solution.

      And arming Israel to the teeth with weapons and billions in military aid, while preventing sales to other states in the region, is not military instability?

      You have some interesting double-standards, Interested Bystander.

      • Interested Bystander
        July 20, 2010, 1:16 am


        I think that’s right–about military stability. Having one side stronger than the other creates stability. Not justice, but stability. The bad side of this is that it means the stronger side has less motivation to change, and it may impede change, and it may enable abuses. But fighting abuses like the occupation through political means is a whole lot better than shipping cruise missiles to Hamas.

        Is it a double standard? Double standard is having a different set of principles or conduct for one over another without good reason. We’ve made a policy decision to support Israel in light of existential threats. There are historical reasons for the policy choice we are making. I think there is more to it than Walt and Mearshimer.

        The existential question whether Israel should exist at all I think is a different question from the Walt Mearshimer argument that Israel receives much greater support in general than can be strategically justified on account of undue influence of the Israel lobby. It’s different because there would nothing inconsistent with supporting Palestinians and supporting Israel’s military superiority. We are not required to have a double standard in this regard, and I agree with you we should not (but I don’t think it’s a good idea to demonstrate even handedness by sending cruise missiles to Hamas)

        A point on the Naval Vessel Transfer Act I did not make express before. It does not require the President to support Israel. We could stop. And, I believe, the Chinese, Russians, and French will happily sell arms to others in the Middle East. Should we?

      • sherbrsi
        July 20, 2010, 2:17 am

        Having one side stronger than the other creates stability.

        No, it creates an imbalance of power, and thus the abuse in its projection.

        Not justice, but stability.

        Do you define constant threat of regional wars as stability? What stability has Israel’s military strength produced, except for the battering of Lebanon and Gaza with the express purpose of using disproportionate force and violence as a deterrence?

        Now, the threat of war with Lebanon looms even closer. There is simply too much evidence against your assertion. Historically, a militarily strong Israel has not provided justice or stability. It has only provided Israel with the guarantee that it can invade and occupy foreign territory and resources with an iron fist, as it has and as it currently continues to do.

        But fighting abuses like the occupation through political means is a whole lot better than shipping cruise missiles to Hamas.

        This law has nothing to do with arming Hamas, but preventing sales to other regional states in the US. Since neither Hamas nor Gaza is a state, they are simply out of the question. You have a habit of setting up strawman arguments (such as that of arming Hamas, or wanting violent destruction of Israel). More than irrelevant, it makes you look uninformed and a troll.

        Double standard is having a different set of principles or conduct for one over another without good reason.

        In correct. Double standard is having a different set of principles or conduct for one another. Period. Your qualifier of having a “good reason” is irrelevant and a self-serving addition. Go and look up the meaning of the term in any dictionary if you doubt that definition. No matter how much you feel your hypocrisy is justified, it does not change the fact that you are applying standards unequally and to the benefit of one state here, while on the other hand charging such an imbalance in the reverse is “not a solution.” That is starkly hypocritical, and your defense of these double standards is even more damning.

      • sherbrsi
        July 20, 2010, 2:39 am

        As far as the definition of double-standards goes, I did the work for you, and it seems you are very much wrong in defending yourself from it by inventing your own meaning of it:


        a set of principles that applies differently and usually more rigorously to one group of people or circumstances than to another

        Google Dictionary:

        If you accuse a person or institution of applying double standards in their treatment of different groups of people, you mean that they unfairly allow more freedom of behaviour to one group than to another.


        A set of principles permitting greater opportunity or liberty to one than to another, especially the granting of greater sexual freedom to men than to women.

        So, I am sorry to inform you of this, Interested Bystander, but you may make any number of exceptions in your apologist reasoning for providing Israel with a privileged status, but you may not invent your own meanings du jour to suit your agenda.

      • hayate
        July 20, 2010, 3:02 am


        Looks like Interested BYstander selected you today. Keep your eyes on his hands, and don’t turn your back – it’s a live one.


    • Sin Nombre
      July 20, 2010, 1:05 am

      Interested Bystander wrote:

      “Israel has had MFN status with the U.S. in the Middle East since ‘48. Should we change that now because we don’t like what they are doing with the occupation?”

      Why not? While I recognize that Lewis Carroll logic seems to rule the issue, to me at least yes, the U.S. damn well should feel free to not grant MFN status to Israel or to any other country if on balance doing so helps our national interest. You make it seem as if either the U.S. has no national interests, or that it’s somehow immoral for the U.S. to pursue them.

      “Military instability is not the solution.”

      Has worked well for Israel since ’67 when it started that war, hasn’t it? Added tons of territory, and has secured what seems an unending river of U.S. dollars.

      And here’s an idea of how it could increase military stability: Give back the Golan to Syria, which clearly Syria would trade much military stability for.

      Or, and even better yet, as every other country has done, just simply declare its own borders so that Israel isn’t keeping every single one of its neighbors on tenderhooks wondering what chunks of its land Israel has in its future sights, which is hardly crazy given periodic statements by accepted Israeli figures to the effect that Israel’s proper borders ought to extend perhaps even to the Euphrates.

      Military instability is of course the *natural* state of affairs brought about by those who don’t like the status quo, such as those who want to continue to settle ever more Palestinian land. As Ethan Bronner himself has said about same though, “history is made by people who don’t quit, and these people are not going to quit.”

      • Interested Bystander
        July 20, 2010, 1:45 am

        Sin Nombre

        You are confusing military agression with stabilty. The Roman Empire had military stability; it was not unagressive.

        As to your statement that “accepted Israeli figures” said Israel’s borders should extend to the Euphrates: I doubt you can provide authority for that; seems pretty silly.

      • Sin Nombre
        July 20, 2010, 3:21 am

        Interested Bystander wrote:

        “You are confusing military agression [sic] with stabilty [sic]. The Roman Empire had military stability; it was not unagressive [sic].”

        … so that when you called for “military stability” what you meant was to arm Israel to the point that it has something of the kind of overwhelming, centuries-long military dominance that Rome did? Really?

        “As to your statement that ‘accepted Israeli figures’ said Israel’s borders should extend to the Euphrates: I doubt you can provide authority for that; seems pretty silly.”

        Well firstly let me hasten to point out that I did not say that this has recently or expressly been on the lips of any mainstream Israeli figure, although I also have no doubt some such total “Eretz Yisrael” thinking and talk is not at all unknown in some of the more “fundamentalist” precincts of Israel. But that does get to my point: What seems unbelievable today can quickly come true tomorrow.

        Originally of course in ’67 probably no-one believed Israel was going to want to hang onto any large segments of the West Bank at all, if any, and yet it did. And until Netanyahu even it was also pretty unthinkable that Israel was going insist to hang on to all of Jerusalem, and yet, there we are now, right? So what I meant was that no responsible leader of any country can ever just look at other countries and trust that they will never radically change, just as leaders of any countries bordering Israel can’t just say “oh, nothing will ever change and the Israeli radicals of today who believe in a broader ‘Eretz Yisrael’ are never going to come to power.”

        Who, for instance, would ever have thought that Menachem Begin of the Irgun would ever have been elected President of Israel? Or Itzhak Shamir?

        Otherwise, of all people, Daniel Pipes provides some very good background to the issue mentioning the kind of stuff I was talking about further at link to danielpipes.org.

        For instance, as Pipes notes, it is clear that twice in the jewish Bible it is said that the land given to the jews ran “to the Euphrates.” And he concedes that Herzl—who I think qualifies as being “accepted” in Israel—referred to wanting “Syria,” and that Jabotinsky openly called for a jewish “empire.” (With him not mentioning but it also being true that one of Jabotinsky’s poems was entitled “Two Banks Has The Jordan” and has the refrain “This is ours and, that is as well,” or that this poem was rather wildly embraced by the Betar youth movement.)

        Pipes is also honest enough (or that the evidence is strong enough) to note that Moshe Dayan is widely quoted as talking about going to either “the Euphrates” or “Babylon,” and that Begin was said to have “predicted” that Israel would eventually extend to “portions of Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon, Jordan, and Kuwait.”

        Now in the end Pipes very cautiously says he doesn’t believe that Dayan and Begin ever said such things, although he also says the quotes are just “somewhat dubious.” But Pipes also denied that Jabotinsky ever called for an empire, and utterly ignores other such indisputable evidence that that’s exactly what he wanted as shown by his freaking poem, for God’s sake.

        Moreover, of course, and to bring us into even more modern times, since ’48 and prior to Begin and Likud’s win in 1977 and even for a long time after the ’67 war and its conquests there simply was no real talk in Israel of “Eretz Yisrael” as the Labor regime in Israel since ’48 had fully accepted the U.N. partition plan. However, as even the Wikipedia entry for the “Land Of Israel” puts it “[t]he then opposition revisionists, who evolved into today’s Likud party, however, regarded the rightful Land of Israel as Eretz Yisrael Ha-Shlema (literally, the whole Land of Israel), which came to be referred to as Greater Israel.”

        (link to en.wikipedia.org)

        So, to bring this to a close, I think I can say that even if *every* one of the now common references made by “accepted Israeli figures” to either “Eretz Yisrael” or “Eretz Yisrael” or “Great Israel” somehow only refers to Israel up to the West Bank—which of course isn’t what the literal translation is, and so is quite a concession on my part given it almost certainly isn’t true— my initial statement which you challenged is still valid. Clearly Herzl and Jabotinsky are not just “accepted” Israeli figures, they are in fact iconic even. And there were many many others. And just as clearly I don’t think that anyone would say that foreign countries bordering on Israel to the north and east have to accept that Israel’s refusal to declare its boundaries is utterly meaningless, and that there will never be any further expansionist sentiment in Israel to worry about beyond going to the west bank of the Jordan. Forget even Herzl and Jabotinsky: Begin and the Likud, and now Netanyahu with his new Israeli position on Jerusalem all establish that even in the most recent of times that times change, and what was once thought unthinkable can suddenly become an unalterable demand.

      • Walid
        July 20, 2010, 3:50 am

        Sin Nombre, you left out Lebanon as being part of the Zionist master plan. As far back as 1907, Haim Weizmann had his sights on south Lebanon and had concluded that without the Litani, northern Palestine could not be properly developed. Laura Zittrain Eisenberg wrote about this in her “Early Zionist Interest in Lebanon” chapter of her book “My Enemy’s Enemy”. Lebanon has been the apple of Israel’s eye as far back as then and has repeatedly failed to get its thieving hands permanently on it:

        “… Encouraged by the nebulous border in the Galilee region, early Zionist strategists considered Lebanon, especially the southern portion, an arena for potential Zionist settlement. Chaim Weizmann toured Lebanon in 1907. Initially unimpressed, he nonetheless perceived “colossal” potential there and decided to reserve judgement until he completed his trip (1). Two-and-a-half weeks later, he was back in Haifa, anxiously seeking support for several small industries he wanted to establish in Sidon, specifically a soap-boiling plant, a lemon-processing factory, a distillation plant, and an olive oil factory. By cooperating with Atid Enterprises, newly found by Russian Jews, Weizmann estimated that the Zionists could create in Sidon a single olive oil company to control the entire oil industry of the country. He concluded his enthusiastic proposal with the observation that “Saida [Sidon] is a good place in every respect. The raw material is available, there is a harbor, it is favorably situated, capable of development, and has a Jewish population” (2).

        Property for sale around Sidon also attracted the attention of other Zionists. The Hibbat Zion (Lover of Zion) movement was a network of Jewish nationalist clubs that emerged in the Russian Pale in the 1870s. The Odessa branch maintained an office in Beirut charged with purchasing land in Eretz Yisrael for Zionist immigrants from Russia. In 1908, this group became particularly excited about a farm for sale in the Sidon/Nabatye region, which they considered the northwest border of Eretz Yisrael.

        The leaders of the Beirut Hibbat Zion office glowingly described the property as a precious jewel with enormous agricultural, political, and strategic potential. They believed that this property would give the Zionists a firm foothold in that part of Eretz Yisrael which fell within Lebanon and a starting point from which to create a chain of Jewish settlements, linking it with that part of Eretz Yisrael which lay to the south. They identified the owner as a wealthy Christian from Beirut with considerable land holdings in southern Lebanon, also available for purchase. Enthused one Hibbat Zion agent [wrote]:

        Every man has his fateful hour and now is the fateful hour to seize the land…It would be a sin on our part if we miss it. We must gather every resource in our power to effect this purchase… We will not cast from our hand this treasure, this wonderful gem, which could be for us a key to a strong position in the heights of Lebanon so dear to us.(3) ”

        link to bintjbeil.com

      • thankgodimatheist
        July 20, 2010, 3:06 am

        “Give back the Golan to Syria, which clearly Syria would trade much military stability for.”
        “Or, and even better yet, as every other country has done, just simply declare its own borders so that Israel isn’t keeping every single one of its neighbors on tenderhooks wondering what chunks of its land Israel has in its future sights, which is hardly crazy given periodic statements by accepted Israeli figures to the effect that Israel’s proper borders ought to extend perhaps even to the Euphrates.”

        I couldn’t agree more! Good stuff..

  17. hayate
    July 20, 2010, 3:06 am

    “The Roman Empire had military stability; it was not unagressive.”

    The Mongols were big on stability, also, and neither were they aggressive. But BYstander, the Romans really kicked arse on old israel. I mean they really stomped the patooey out of those cringing israelites. What do you think of that?


    • hayate
      July 20, 2010, 3:15 am


      “neither were they aggressive”

      Should of been:

      neither were they unaggressive

    • hayate
      July 20, 2010, 3:41 am

      Holy riding crops, BYstander, I just remembered, the nazis were also big on stability and they were not unaggressive. I think you’re on to something there about israeli aggression to achieve “stability”. When someone would cap a German soldier, the nazis made sure to take out many innocents in return, both for revenge and to try and deter further attacks on their sweet innocent soldiers. Now when Palestinians (or israelis pretending they are Palestinians), lob a bottle rocket at the israelis, the israelis send in their ss goon squads and waste a bunch of Palestinian children. Damn, they act identical. Good work, without you, BYstander, I would have never realised how similar zionist israelis are to nazi Germans.

      Here’s a banana as a reward for your efforts.

  18. Interested Bystander
    July 20, 2010, 11:12 am

    Shrebrsi, and TGA and Hayate et al.

    Hayate compares Israel to Nazi Germany on a daily basis. We are talking about whether Israel should have military superiority over its neighbors, but none of you are discussing this topic head on or in a serious way. Much more fun to talk trash, yes?

    If your views are that Israel is Nazi Germany and we should arm its enemies so they can bomb it like we bombed Dresden, which is strongly implied by Hayate and by your general discussion, but which none of you seem ready to acknowledge . . . well, then this site is not so interesting. It’s naive and stupid, or you really are the enemy of achieving justice in the area.

    The comments here could be a valuable forum for people to learn, to think out loud, and to develop view. As it is, it mostly drags down this site. That’s too bad.

    • Chaos4700
      July 20, 2010, 11:24 am

      Oh yes, the problem is most definitely NOT Israel killing civilians in scores, depriving people of their human rights and even targeting children with military strategies, but the problem is right here, in those of us criticizing those atrocities.


    • Bumblebye
      July 20, 2010, 11:38 am

      The argument raised by the post is about whether the US taxpayer should be forced to pay for a foreign country’s military “edge” over any of its neighbors. And maybe whether when Israel points and cries “wolf” it isn’t just another chihuahua. And whether when a nation metes out egregious injustice to some of its own nationals, as well as others whose land it controls, this isn’t reminiscent of nazi behavior, which many people don’t think should be so supported. Full nazification of Germany took some years before war broke out, before the attempted annihilation of Jews and others was able to be implemented.

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