President Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 preserves military aid to Israel at $3.1 billion – but contains many irresponsible and dangerous cuts to diplomacy and foreign development aid. The budget blueprint embodies an isolationist worldview and dependence on military might to solve problems at the expense of multilateral diplomacy. We urge Members of Congress of all parties to reject these draconian reductions in vital assistance.
Over the years, many pro-Israel organizations – including J Street – have argued that Israel cannot be treated as a special case, exempted from cuts to foreign aid while programs affecting the rest of the world are slashed wholesale. We call on pro-Israel advocates across the political spectrum to once again fight for robust foreign assistance beyond US aid to Israel.
Ultimately, weakening US foreign aid, which is already far below the contributions of other advanced economies in percentage GDP terms, undermines Israeli security as well. The budget proposal slashes funding for the State Department and for international development programs by a devastating 28 percent with massive cuts for the United Nations, humanitarian assistance and cultural exchange programs. This will severely impact the ability of the United States to work in concert with our allies and the international community on matters of immense strategic importance that affect every American and Israeli. It will cut our ties to the rest of the world on the most basic people-to-people level.
As we have seen in recent years, diplomacy has the ability to deliver significant national security payoffs to the United States at a fraction of the cost of military action and without any of the attendant human suffering. Our nation is still paying for President George W. Bush’s unnecessary and catastrophic invasion of Iraq in 2003. It will benefit for years to come from President Obama’s decision to secure a multilateral deal with Iran to defang its nuclear program.
As Admiral Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has stated: “It is my firm belief that diplomatic programs, as part of a coordinated strategy, will save money by reducing the likelihood of active military conflict involving U.S. forces. The more significant the cuts, the longer military operations will take and the more and more lives are at risk.”
If implemented, this budget proposal will weaken US influence and security and cause untold suffering to vulnerable populations around the world. It should be fiercely opposed by all who care about the US’s role as a global leader and about Israel.