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Where defense spending really goes
By Yannai Cohen and Shuky Sadeh
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/635760.html
October 19, 2005

Israel's defense spending next year will reach NIS 34 billion, according to the 2006 government approved budget. Add on NIS 11 billion from the U.S. and a few more billion hiding away in the Defense Ministry, and the total reaches about NIS 50 billion a year. Where exactly does the money go? Only a select handful of privileged know the answer.

The figures are clothed in mystery, camouflaged from the public with the right to know. Those in the know are aware that the budget is bloated, excessive and could be slashed without harming the nation's defense, but no one has been able to clip the powerful wings of the army establishment, which takes an abnormally high amount of the national resources.
One example of where the money goes is the $640 million for the Apache Longbow attack helicopter, which some experts believe is unnecessary. Another NIS 800 million goes on the megalomaniac Merkava tank project. And the budget for the country's secret services, Mossad and atomic energy unit is estimated at NIS 4 billion a year.

The public is naturally keen to know where its money is spent, but the Defense Ministry, unlike other ministries, runs its own budget allocation without Finance Ministry (read: taxpayer) interference. The Health Ministry, for example, requires treasury approval before conducting any transfer or economic activity, but in defense, any item of less than NIS 90 million is off limits to any external supervision. For spending above that figure, the ministry requires approval from a select parliamentary committee, which for all intents and purposes is a rubber stamp.

MK Uri Ariel (National Union) explained this conundrum. "Today we were asked to approve the transfer of NIS 600 million to the defense establishment for `development'," he said this week. "As with every approval request, this one was accompanied by a long list of clauses ending with a small item, what I call `petty cash' and what the defense ministry calls `sundries.' Guess what the sum is? NIS 140 million. On the same day, in the morning, I was in a hearing on the Dovrat report [on educational reform], and representatives said there's no money. In the Knesset Finance Committee, we spent hours discussing a NIS 1 million transfer to the Health Ministry. Eventually we agreed not to sign off automatically, although we are justifiably called a rubber stamp. The meeting on the NIS 600 million lasted an hour. For health spending of NIS 3 million, we would sit for twice that length of time, and there would be many questions and arguments."

Here are some suggestions where the army could cut costs.

In April 2005, there were whoops of joy among those invited to Israel Air Force's Ramon base. The reason for the celebration was the deal to buy what many regard as the latest word in attack helicopters: the Apache Longbow developed by Boeing, which the IDF has renamed Sharaf. But why did Boeing have to conduct an aggressive marketing campaign, flying Israel's top brass over before the $640 million deal was signed? Maybe the answer lies in Karbala, Iraq, where in March 2003, the United States suffered heavily in a battle for the skies. Thirty Apache helicopters were attacked, two crashed, the crew of one fell into captivity, and other Apaches incurred such serious damage that they were taken out of service. A senior Israel Air Force officer, Uzi Rosen, was quoted as saying "this reinforces the recognition that combat helicopters are a passing phase."

Tanks for the memories

It was the role played by tanks in the Yom Kippur War that set off the army's thinking. If 6,200 tanks helped win that war and that was three times the number that played their role in the Six Day War, then there must be a need for 20,000 tanks in the next war. And so plans for the Merkava tank were born. And despite the growing feeling that such a tank battle will only take place in computer games, the taxpayer is still paying NIS 800 million a year for this defense project for the next 15 years.

Problematic pensions

Then there are the 28 delegations of Israel's forces in 24 countries worldwide that cost NIS 200 million a year, an amount a treasury official described as "the greatest scandal in an era of cheap phone calls, emails and Skype." Some 40 personnel, for example, are located in defense offices in Manhattan (not New Jersey, not Washington, but Manhattan!) when there is practically no U.S. defense industry in the city.

And then there's the right of every career soldier to spend NIS 800 a year on sportswear, which translates to NIS 30 million a year on Nike shoes.

And let's not forget the pensions. When Moshe Dayan was chief of staff, he encouraged personnel to retire in their 40s to keep the fighting forces young. So today, army personnel retire in their 40s with pensions paid for by the state. Although the situation has changed - all new career army recruits now must contribute to their own pension funds - the old guard still enjoys the perk even though only 14 percent of all IDF personnel are classified as "fighting" (70 percent are home front, 16 percent are support staff). But their early retirement payments grow 6 percent annually, so that by 2010, the pension cost will hit NIS 5 billion, 15 percent of the defense's total budget.



[JPN Commentary: In the article below, forwarded complete with a brief commentary by Sol Salbe, Rachel Corrie's cousin speaks passionately on the question of divestment. Sol's eloquent commentary speaks volumes about the wisdom of a selective divestment strategy targeting the occupation. To get involved with the campaign to stop Caterpillar Corporation from profiting form the demolition of the homes of innocents, go to www.catdestroyshomes.org -- MP]

[It is no secret that while I am opposed to a blanket boycott of Israel I regard boycotting companies that profit from the suffering of others as close to a Mitzvah (a good deed that Jews are commanded to carry out.) This is as applicable to the tobacco giants as it is to companies that are involve in military subjugation and occupation of nations or parts of them. Halliburton and Caterpillar are two such companies. The fact that my stance raises the ire of hardliners on both sides of the fence does not prove it right in and by itself. But being confident of my stance, it does reinforce my conviction. - Sol Salbe]

Elizabeth Corrie: 'Investors can act to prevent civilian suffering'
Extracted from a speech delivered to a War on Want public meeting at the House of Commons by the American teacher and activist

http://comment.independent.co.uk/podium/article321107.ece
Published: 21 October 2005

On 16 March 2003, my cousin Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by Israeli soldiers operating a 64-ton armoured bulldozer, while she was attempting to prevent the demolition of the house of a civilian family, including five children, who were still inside.

The US-based Caterpillar Corporation built and sold this and thousands more bulldozers to Israel through the US government's Foreign Military Sales Program. The bulldozers were then armoured for the purposes of demolishing civilian homes - illegal according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, .

Caterpillar has supplied bulldozers to Israel since 1967, and since then 10,000 Palestinian homes have been destroyed, resulting in the deaths of many Palestinian civilians, but also in the widespread displacement of tens of thousands of civilians. Caterpillar has received numerous reports on the use of its products in the Occupied Territories since at least 2001. For this reason, the family of Rachel Corrie has filed a lawsuit against Caterpillar, Inc for its negligence in her death.

In July 2004 the Presbyterian Church (USA) decided to investigate selective divestment from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Recently the church listed Caterpillar, Inc as one of four candidates for divestment. This bold step is the only way to discourage Caterpillar and other corporations like it from exploiting the suffering of civilians for economic gain - by making it costly for them to maintain their current practices. Action by other investors, such as the Church of England with its #2.2m in Caterpillar shares, would strengthen the impact of this principled stance.

Until multinational corporations are ready to take their social responsibility seriously, people of conscience must translate moral accountability into the only language corporations really understand - financial.

Even if we have to drag them kicking and screaming up the moral ladder, we can, through divestment, show them that people really are more important than profits.

On 16 March 2003, my cousin Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by Israeli soldiers operating a 64-ton armoured bulldozer, while she was attempting to prevent the demolition of the house of a civilian family, including five children, who were still inside.

The US-based Caterpillar Corporation built and sold this and thousands more bulldozers to Israel through the US government's Foreign Military Sales Program. The bulldozers were then armoured for the purposes of demolishing civilian homes - illegal according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, .

Caterpillar has supplied bulldozers to Israel since 1967, and since then 10,000 Palestinian homes have been destroyed, resulting in the deaths of many Palestinian civilians, but also in the widespread displacement of tens of thousands of civilians. Caterpillar has received numerous reports on the use of its products in the Occupied Territories since at least 2001. For this reason, the family of Rachel Corrie has filed a lawsuit against Caterpillar, Inc for its negligence in her death.

In July 2004 the Presbyterian Church (USA) decided to investigate selective divestment from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Recently the church listed Caterpillar, Inc as one of four candidates for divestment. This bold step is the only way to discourage Caterpillar and other corporations like it from exploiting the suffering of civilians for economic gain - by making it costly for them to maintain their current practices. Action by other investors, such as the Church of England with its #2.2m in Caterpillar shares, would strengthen the impact of this principled stance.

Until multinational corporations are ready to take their social responsibility seriously, people of conscience must translate moral accountability into the only language corporations really understand - financial.

Even if we have to drag them kicking and screaming up the moral ladder, we can, through divestment, show them that people really are more important than profits.




[JPN Commentary: The following exchange between Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is both illustrative and refreshing. Such candor, even if rather incomplete, about any Israeli settlement activity and American refusal to act on it is rare in the halls of Congress.

Chafee's harsh approach to Rice illustrates how far out of favor this administration is falling, even on the Hill. That Chafee, in so many words, clearly implies that the Bush Administration is refusing to back even its own words when it comes to Israeli settlement can be the beginning of a change in Congress. Chafee has taken such stances before, but as with this incident, stops short of actually moving in the one direction that would get Israel to change its settlement policies and actions: the threat of loss of aid if Israel does not take down the outposts, halt all building in the Occupied Territories and begin the process of withdrawal from the West Bank just like it did in Gaza. Only economic pressure can ever hope to bring about such a profound change in Israel behavior.

Go to http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm and find your own senators' contact page. Let them know you want real pressure on Israel, economic pressure, the only kind that will work. Tell them via phone, fax or e-mail, that you expect your government to exert such pressure until Israel fully withdraws from the West Bank and gets serious about a compromise on Jerusalem and on Palestinian refugees. Tell them this does not compromise Israeli security--on the contrary, it will enhance it. But more important, it is simply the right thing to do. It's the only way forward toward a better future for Israelis and Palestinians. And after you have told this to your senators, contact Chafee and commend him for his forthright questioning of Rice and that he should now move forward toward real pressure on Israel if he wants to get the results he called for. -- MP]


Excerpts from an exchange on October 19th in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee between Middle East Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice:

http://www.peacenow.org/updates.asp?rid=0&cid=1610


CHAFEE: . . . you said that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and confronting it is a pillar to our success in the region. Those are your words. Now, I was at a dinner -- I think it was Gridiron or something like that -- and humor was encouraged. And the president ran a video of looking for weapons of mass destruction, looking under chairs, looking under the table, where are they, where are the WMD?And, obviously, it was a joke. There were no WMD. It was all a joke. And the laugh was on us. Now the president is talking about the road map. And he's saying, in his words, in May, "Israel must remove unauthorized outposts and stop settlement expansion. "Are we going to someday see the same movie, where's the road map? It must be under here somewhere. It's under this table. It's under this chair. Or are we really working to do what the president's saying? And that is: Remove unauthorized outposts and stop settlement expansion?

RICE: Well, interestingly, Senator, we've had the only return of territory to the Palestinians in the entire history of the conflict. The Israelis are out of the Gaza. And that. . .

CHAFEE: I'm asking about settlement expansion. I'm asking that question.

RICE: Senator, I understand, and I will answer that question. But we can't lose sight of the historic change that has taken place and that the Palestinians are actually now in control of the Gaza. We're working with them on issues of international egress and ingress and matters of that kind. But let's remember that the Israelis took an historic decision to actually leave the territory.

CHAFEE: While 8,000 settlers moved out of Gaza, while 30,000 moved into the West Bank in opposition to the president's stated objective; that's why I'm asking the question.

RICE: Actually, Senator, I don't think 30,000 have moved into disputed territories. . .

CHAFEE: Probably more.


More important news articles: 

Second Palestinian killed during army operation in West Bank 

Palestinian official: Peace hope fading

Israel resigned to Hamas participation in elections

Israel still in control of Gaza, says envoy


Jewish Peace News Editors:
Judith Norman
Alistair Welchman
Mitchell Plitnick
Lincoln Shlensky
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai

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"HOPE has two children.The first is ANGER at the way things are. The second is COURAGE to DO SOMETHING about it."-St. Augustine

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The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

© 1968, 2001 Kent M. Keith

" In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway."-Mother Teresa


“You cannot talk like sane men around a peace table while the atomic bomb itself is ticking beneath it. Do not treat the atomic bomb as a weapon of offense; do not treat it as an instrument of the police. Treat the bomb for what it is: the visible insanity of a civilization that has ceased...to obey the laws of life.”- Lewis Mumford, 1946



The age of warrior kings and of warrior presidents has passed. The nuclear age calls for a different kind of leadership....a leadership of intellect, judgment, tolerance and rationality, a leadership committed to human values, to world peace, and to the improvement of the human condition. The attributes upon which we must draw are the human attributes of compassion and common sense, of intellect and creative imagination, and of empathy and understanding between cultures."  - William Fulbright



“Any nation that year after year continues to raise the Defense budget while cutting social programs to the neediest is a nation approaching spiritual death.” - Rev. MLK
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"On the day of the termination of the British mandate and on the strength of the United Nations General Assembly declare The State of Israel will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel: it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion it will guarantee freedom of religion [and] conscience and will be faithful to the Charter of the United Nations." - May 14, 1948. The Declaration of the Establishment of Israel
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