Last year around this time, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, in the words of Ynet’s Attila Somfalvi, “assumed the role of the responsible adult and slapped Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak,” when he asserted that Israel can “delay but not destroy Iran’s nuclear capabilities”. As Somfalvi saw it, Dempsey effectively “slammed Israel’s head against the wall and said: “Shut up. Stop babbling about Iran. Without us there is not much you can do, and don’t assume for a second that we are dancing to your tune. You shouldn’t do anything stupid, and stop driving the entire world crazy.” Fast forward to this week and we again have Dempsey reprising this role, visiting Israel to, as Ben Caspit reported a high-ranking Israeli defense official as saying, “make sure that Israel has no surprises up its sleeve in connection with Iran.”
Dempsey got the guarantee—he “sensed agreement” from the Israelis that diplomacy and sanctions “were having an effect”—but one wonders why he bothered making the trip since, according to Martin Indyk, the Obama administration last year “figured out finally” that Israel is “the boy who cried wolf” when it threatens to bomb Iran. In March 2012, the administration was convinced that zero hour had arrived and Israel was about to send the squadrons so we “tried everything in our power to change their stance,” said Indyk. “First it looked like it really worked, when everyone did whatever they could to placate Israel (in that instance, Netanyahu wanted weapons). But after another round of Israeli threats, people in the Administration were saying, “Looks like they’re doing their threats again, but we can live with it.” Washington found out that it had been bamboozled by Netanyahu and Barak’s “big fraud” and realized that Israeli saber-rattling was all along about them wanting more sabers to rattle.
Israel attacking unilaterally isn’t a concern anymore, so what Indyk must mean by the administration learning to live with their threats is that whenever Israel acts agitated about Iran and clamors for the U.S. to have a credible military option it’s really code for ‘can we have these items on our wish list?’ The Israeli threats are now met in Washington with a slight sigh of exasperation and an ‘alright, what do they want this time?’ attitude. Uncle Sam’s bag of goodies is bounteous and during Dempsey’s excursion Israeli defense officials no doubt informed him about their impending request. “Israel is seeking a surge in future US Foreign Military Financing (FMF) grants not only to support its growing security requirements, but to offset the impact of increasingly advanced US arms sales to other countries in the volatile region,” reports Defense News. Dempsey was most likely discussing these future increased aid packages, which were promised when Israeli signed off on the arms deal they received in April.
This continuing cycle where Netanyahu pushes the U.S. to take a more militarist tack in dealing with Iran so that the Obama administration has to keep buying his silence with concessions beneficial to Israel isn’t all that vexing since there is no real danger of the U.S. being cornered into launching a war against Iran due to Netanyahu’s pressure. The only inconvenience caused by the Prime Minister’s unceasing anti-Iran drumbeat is that it bolsters like-minded congressmen in Washington who are also dedicated to delaying a deal (and would be more effective at doing so by imposing pointless sanctions) thereby meddling with the planned Pacific Pivot. Aside from that, now that Washington policymakers have seen through the “big fraud” and comprehend the cryptic hints Israel was delivering all those years, there is no problem with the game Tel Aviv is playing whatsoever because Congress and the Pentagon delight in lavishing aid upon Israel—even insisting on providing it for a program Israel felt it could do without.
In May 2010, Israel was prepared to discontinue the Iron Dome missile defense system because spending $50,000 a missile simply wasn’t cost-effective for shooting down the cheap makeshift rockets the Palestinians fire from Gaza. Moreover, according to Haaretz, the “Israel Defense Forces ducked away from funding the project with its budget, explaining that offensive readiness was a higher priority.” But before Iron Dome could be scrapped, the U.S. rescued the project and is fully funding it to this day, demonstrating the degree to which the U.S. is eager to seize any opportunity to increase Israel’s military aid.
Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. FMF and is obliged to spend 75% of an annual sum of $3 billion in the U.S. arms market, making this arrangement—along with that of all the other nations that receive U.S. FMF who have to recycle all of their grants into our arms industry–crucial in keeping the Military-Industrial-Complex humming. It makes one wonder if Washington is encouraging Netanyahu to cry wolf over Iran so they have an excuse to grease the wheels of the gravy train to Israel enabling it to carry a weightier freight of more aid.