The United States has given Israel $51.3 billion in military grants since 1949, most of it after 1974 – more than any other country in the post-1945 era. Israel has also received $11.2 billion in loans for military equipment, plus $31 billion in economic grants, not to mention loan guarantees or joint military projects. But major conditions on these military grants have meant that 74 percent of it has remained in the U.S. to purchase American arms. Since it creates jobs and profits in many districts, Congress is more than ready to respond to the cajoling of the Israel lobby. This vast sum has both enabled and forced Israel to prepare to fight an American-style war. But the US since 1950 has failed to win any of its big wars.
In early 2005 the new chief of staff of the Israel Defense Force, Dan Halutz, embarked on the most extensive reorganization in the history of IDF. Halutz is an Air Force general and enamored with the doctrines that justify the ultra-modern equipment the Americans showered upon the Israelis. Attack helicopters, unmanned aircraft, advanced long-range intelligence and communications, and the like were at the top of his agenda. His was merely a variation of Donald Rumsfeld’s “shock and awe” concepts.
The 34-day war in Lebanon, starting July 12 last year, was a disastrous turning point for Israel. Until the Eliyahu Winograd Commission, which Olmert set up in September 2006, delivers its interim report in late April – which will cover the first five days of the war only – and resolves these matters, we will not know precisely the orders sent to specific units or the timing of all of the actors, but there is already a consensus on far more important fundamentals. But the Israelis did not lose the war because of orders given or not given to various officers. It was a war of choice, and it was planned as an air war with very limited ground incursions in the expectation that Israeli casualties would be very low. Major General Herzl Sapir at the end of February said that “the war began at our initiative and we did not take advantage of the benefits granted to the initiator.” Planning for the war began November 2005 but reached high gear by the following March before the expected kidnapping of two IDF soldiers – the nominal excuse for the war. There is no controversy over the fact that it was a digitized, networked war, the first in Israel’s experience, and conformed to Halutz’ – and American – theories of how war is fought in this high-tech era. The US fought identical wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – and is in the process of losing both.