What levers does the U.S. possess to pressure Israel -- if indeed it wanted to? The list is long -- from weapons deals to direct financing of Israel's military spending to special foreign aid packages.
The authors of a report (.PDF link) issued last week by the World Policy Institute (WPI) lays it out simply: "The billions of U.S. arms and aid it provides every year gives the Bush administration substantial leverage in pressing Israel for a cease fire in its attacks on Lebanon," notes William D. Hartung, a senior fellow at the WPI in New York.
"Without at least discussing U.S. military support for Israel, it will be difficult -- if not impossible -- for Americans to understand the options available to our government in this crisis," argues Frida Berrigan, a WPI senior research associate.
Specifically, they note that during the first four years of the Bush administration, the U.S. provided Israel with $10.5 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and $6.3 billion in U.S. arms deliveries. The FMF, as it's called, is used by foreign countries to buy U.S. military goods.
The FMF is so large, write Hartung and Berrigan, because it includes financing for major arms agreements for which the equipment has yet to be delivered, including a contract for 102 F-16's, the primary fighter bomber used in attacks on Lebanon. That deal alone is worth more than $4 billion.
"When it comes to getting arms from the U.S., Israel has money in the bank," notes Hartung.
The report states what has been well known outside the U.S., that for more than 30 years, Israel had been the largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance and since 1985 Jerusalem has received about $3 billion in military and economic aid each year from Washington. U.S. military aid accounts for more than 20 percent of Israel's total defense budget, says the report.
In fact, the day after the first Israeli aircraft bombed targets in Lebanon, says Hartung, the Israelis made sure they had a ready, secure supply of jet fuel for its bombers.
"On July 14th... the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency supported an Israeli request for JP-8 jet fuel worth up to $210 million. Although this fuel will not be delivered immediately, it will allow Israel to replace fuel used in bombing runs in Lebanon," writes Hartung.
He also notes the Pentagon's justification, delivered in a DoD press release the day after the first bombing of Beirut airport: ':"The proposed sale of the JP-8 aviation fuel will allow Israel to maintain the operational capability of its aircraft inventory. The jet fuel will be consumed while the aircraft is in use to keep peace and security in the region. Israel will have no difficulty absorbing this additional fuel into its armed forces."
Hartung argues that the U.S. should consider what it did during the Reagan administration when Israel launched its last attacks on Lebanon. "During the last major Israeli incursion into Lebanon, in 1981, the Reagan administration cut off U.S. military aid and arms deliveries for 10 weeks while it investigated whether Israel was using weapons for 'defensive purposes,' as required under U.S. law," he writes. "At the end of that period, then Secretary of State Alexander Haig suggested that one could 'argue until eternity' about whether a given use of force was offensive or defensive, and the ban was lifted. But at least the Reagan administration took some action, which is more than can be said thus far about the administration of George W. Bush."