Obama, It's Time to Stop the Arms Gifts to Israel and Egypt

It's time for us to question the wisdom of ripping apart a country, or a territory as the case may be, in the name of snuffing out a militant group.
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As the black plumes of black smoke billow into the skies over Gaza from the United Nations relief agency -- the main source of fuel, food, and medicine for the bombed-to-hell Gazans (including the many who never wanted Hamas there to begin with) who are trapped in a box with no way to escape and little means of fighting back, there's little use for Israel to deny it's using white phosphorus bombs, and using them illegally -- in densely populated civilian areas.

According to the UN spokesman on the ground, John Ging, this inferno was caused by white phosphorus bombs -- no ifs ands or buts -- and it wasn't an accident: the UN repeatedly warned Israel that its bombs were getting closer and closer. Because of the nature of white phosphorus, the flames can't be put out with water. What's more, according to physicians in Gaza, some five dozen Gazans have already been burned by this nasty weapon that melts skin to the bone.

Proof of the illegal use of white phosphorus bombs despite Israel's previous denials , also give new weight to claims (denied by Israel) that it is also trying out a new weapon developed by the U.S. Air Force -- DIME -- short for Dense Inert Metal Explosive, which rips off limbs and slams micro-shrapnel under the skin of those nearby. Some also suggest that Israel is using cluster bombs -- which the U.S. reportedly stopped supplying to Israel after its controversial use of these weapons in the 2006 assault on Lebanon.

In view of this latest display of Israel's Goliath against the neighbor's David, I suggest that it's time for the U.S. to stop supplying Israel with all freebie weapons to try out against its Arab neighbors. In fact, it's time for a review of the continuing U.S. role in maintaining the 1979 Camp David Agreement negotiated by Jimmy Carter -- that brought peace between Israel and Egypt, and for Americans to realize the ramifications of the earth-shaking, well-intentioned peace agreement.

While hearts warmed back then at the thought that in exchange for return of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula (which Israel had seized in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War) that Egypt would be the first Arab country to recognize Israel's right to exist, what slipped between the cracks was the payoff involved: namely, in return for the two former foes keeping the peace, a very chilly peace lately, that the US would play the role of "Arms Santa Claus" providing billions of dollars of free fancy weapons and arms to both Israel and Egypt each year.

Since 1979, Israel has received over $2 billion of U.S. tax dollars for its military annually and Egypt has made off with $1.3 billion yearly -- which makes Israel and Egypt the biggest recipients of U.S. foreign aid in the world, never mind our altruistic notions that U.S. aid is mostly in the form of food to hungry nations.

Thirty years later, it's obvious that this agreement was dangerous -- especially for the United States: the U.S. is blamed for enabling Israel every time Israel takes on a military operation, which are often disproportional: this brutal attack in Gaza, (like the 2006 invasion of Lebanon over Hezbollah's kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers when Israel bombed bridges, power plants, civilian homes and caused $7 billion of damage while killing over 1000 Lebanese, most civilians) is overkill; even after the 2006 ceasefire was agreed to, Israel dropped a million cluster bombs before pulling out -- make farmlands a landmine for Lebanese farmers, and wounding and killing hundreds a year since.

What's more, the 1979 agreement proved dangerous in ways unseen: by taking Egypt's army -- the biggest in the Middle East -- out of the equation, it made war between countries unlikely, since nobody was going to take on Israel without Egypt in its alliance. That sounds like a good thing, except that it's only led to the creation of more militant groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.

If after thirty years, Israel and Egypt don't have enough freebie arms, tough. If that's all that's been keeping them from going at it, then too bad.

Besides disengaging us from this ridiculous, costly and hazardous agreement -- and perhaps instead using those billions towards summits and peace talks between snarling nations as well as militant groups that aren't going away -- President Obama needs to lobby for banning the use of white phosphorus, DIME as well as cluster bombs by Israel, the US (which also used white phosphorus in Iraq and cluster bombs in Afghanistan) and the armies of the world. They're inhumane -- pure and simple.

As for Israel's latest attack on a neighbor -- prompted by the rockets shot over by Gazan militants, although, until recently, they weren't even fired by Hamas, but enemies of Hamas who had every interest in screwing up the already iffy ceasefire that ended last month -- it's time for Israel to put those tanks in reverse, ground the planes and stop the mortar fire. It's time for Hamas to cough up Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, kidnapped in 2006, whose return is no doubt a factor in Israel's invasion. And it's time for Americans to realize that for every action Israel takes, the U.S. is seen as behind it -- and often enough is. Furthermore, it's time for us to question the wisdom -- including in similar actions taken by the U.S. such as in Afghanistan -- of ripping apart a country, or a territory as the case may be, in the name of snuffing out a militant group.

-- What Every American Should Know about the Middle East, the latest book of Rossi's series with Plume/Penguin Books USA has just hit bookstore shelves.

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