Israel and AIPAC want to continue U.S. military aid to Egypt. Above, a picture from a joint Egypt-U.S. military exercise in 2005. (Photo: U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons
Israel is working hard to save Western aid to Egypt. The Israeli government’s lobbying, buttressed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), comes as reports emerge about the Obama administration potentially cutting off some aid to the Egyptian armed forces because of its brutal crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood in recent weeks.
Yesterday, the New York Times’ Jodi Rudoren reported that Israel was planning to “intensify” its efforts to persuade Europe and the U.S. to keep up Western aid to Egypt.
The Israeli effort is not being done in the open–open lobbying by Israel for the Egyptian military would not be viewed positively in Egypt. But an anonymous Israeli official told Rudoren that the Israeli perspective is all about “putting Egypt back on track at whatever cost. First, save what you can, and then deal with democracy and freedom and so on.” The official added: “At this point, it’s army or anarchy.”
In Washington, AIPAC is following the Israeli government’s lead. As Foreign Policy‘s John Hudson reported:
AIPAC, which was credited with helping kill an amendment to cut Egyptian aid in July, is now operating behind the scenes in private meetings with lawmakers to keep alive Cairo’s funding, congressional aides from both political parties said.
The $1.3 billion in American aid to Egypt has long been the price paid to guarantee that the Camp David peace treaty with Israel holds together. But today there’s little chance, even without U.S. aid to Egypt, that the peace treaty would unravel or that war would break out between the two countries. Instead, Israel may be keeping up efforts to ensure aid because the country wants an effective military crackdown on Sinai Islamists that threaten both Egypt’s generals and Israel. Additionally, as former intelligence officer Paul Pillar suggests in The National Interest, “the Israeli Right has to be discomfited by any thought of the United States using leverage based on a major aid relationship in that part of the world to get the recipient to change destructive policies.”
The efforts to make sure that there’s a continued flow of aid come as governments around the world debate their response to an Egyptian government crackdown that has killed hundreds of Islamists and opponents of the July 3 coup. European officials will meet tomorrow to discuss suspending aid in the wake of the violence in Egypt.
As for the Obama administration, its response remains unclear. While the president announced last week that the U.S. would suspend joint military exercises with the Egyptian military, the much more important question of U.S. military aid to Egypt looms large.
The Daily Beast’s Josh Rogin reported yesterday that the Obama administration had secretly suspended military aid to Egypt. Rogin wrote:
In the latest example of its poorly understood Egypt policy, the Obama administration has decided to temporarily suspend the disbursement of most direct military aid, the delivery of weapons to the Egyptian military, and some forms of economic aid to the Egyptian government while it conducts a broad review of the relationship. The administration won’t publicly acknowledge all aspects of the aid suspension and maintains its rhetorical line that no official coup determination has been made, but behind the scenes, extensive measures to treat the military takeover of Egypt last month as a coup are being implemented on a temporary basis.
The Obama administration is in the midst of a case-by-case review of aid programs for Egypt to see whether any should be suspended in light of the actions of the military-backed government. So says the administration, which insists the review does not equal a hold or a suspension of aid — yet.
But even if Rogin’s report is true, the suspension of aid would be a symbolic move. The vast majority of the $1.3 billion in annual military aid has already been disbursed. It’s only $585 million in aid that’s at stake.
So the real question is whether the full package of U.S. military aid will be disbursed next year. Given the history of U.S. policy, and Israel’s efforts to ensure the aid keeps flowing, it’s likely that military aid will continue.