Depth regimes in the Middle East are characterized by a cyclical build-up of weapons in both Israel and the Arab states, alongside elevated oil prices, as core petroleum and armament companies, fueled by and fueling regional instability, exploit that instability to expand their differential profitability. How much of this is visible in something relatively small and relatively analytically discrete—an arms sale, for example?

Let’s see. The media is reporting on an American sale of 84 F-15s and dozens of Blackhawk helicopters to Saudi Arabia as part of a 30 billion dollar deal. Israel reportedly opposed the deal, as it opposed the 9 billion dollar sale of F-15s to Saudi Arabia in 1992–a sale that went through against the Lobby’s initial objections, clarifying which sector of domestic power wins when the question is one of survival for a key armament manufacturer in the United States. Meanwhile the US is attempting to sell the Israeli air force the new F-35 fighter jet.

However, Jonathan Cook reports that “the US has offered Israeli firms defence contracts worth $4bn to supply parts for the F-35 — a deal some Israeli analysts believe is designed to buy Israel’s silence over the Saudi deal and ensure it gets through the US Congress.”

That 4 billion dollar contract will cover much of the cost of the F-35s, which cost 150-160 million dollars apiece. Israel is expected to buy 20 of them, with an option to purchase another 55 in the future. They are equipped with stealth technology, enabling them to be used as a threat against Iran, which may be in possession of Russian anti-aircraft missile batteries—part of the point of the deal.

Cook continues: “Last year Israel had threatened to abandon negotiations over the F-35 and opt instead to buy the advanced F-15. Saudi Arabia’s reported purchase of that jet appears to make such a scenario less likely,” as Israel is forced so purchase the more-expensive, more-modern plane in order to maintain what Ehud Barak called its “qualitative military edge,” although other analysts suggested that Israel could simply soup up its F-15s and F-16s instead of purchasing the latest jet from American arms factories.

With Saudi Arabia in possession of F-15s, Israel will be forced to purchase more advanced fighter jets in the future, too, so the deal will effectively lock in the Israeli “option,” assuming, of course, that it maintains the belligerent posture that requires a “qualitative military edge.” Clearly, American arms manufacturers have little interest in Israel arriving at a just peace that would tamp down regional conflicts.

What do we see here? Several things. First, the Lobby, in action in Congress to make sure “Israeli” defense firms get the contract to make parts for the F-35, a bonanza for them. Next, massive exports of F-15s and F-35s to Saudi Arabia and Israel, respectively. With most of the costs for research and development already sunk, these arms exports represent massive profit for the arma-core.

Now, the Israel Lobby has played its part in diverting—or securing—that 4 billion dollars for “Israeli” firms (often partially owned by trans-national and especially Russian and American capital), but that 4 billion dollars is not a transfer from the “US” to “Israel”: it’s a transfer from the US taxpayer to transnational, Israeli-based, capital, much like the yearly arms grants to Israel are a transfer from the American taxpayer to American arms-manufacturers, with 25 percent of it staying in Israel.

Furthermore, in “addition to the question of the price of the F-35, Israel and the US have been at loggerheads over whether Israel should be allowed to install its own avionics and weapons systems. So far the US has refused, and last month denied Israel a test aircraft,” perhaps wary due to past efforts at industrial espionage. Meanwhile, the core production lines—for military jets—remain in America, a telling reminder of which set of capitalists is calling the shots.

At the same time, all of this arms-build up is intended to intimidate Iran into dropping its ambition for an independent nuclear fuel cycle, and eventually, developing a nuclear weapon, also understood to be at the behest of the Lobby. Yet conservative Israeli analysts agree that an Iranian weapon isn’t a threat to Israeli security, while Hooman Majd suggests that the Obama administration will absolutely not attack Iran.

Incanting a daemonic Iran does, however, scare the shit out of the already-hysterical Israeli population, keeping it on the war-footing that diverts class agitation into bellicose nationalist militarism—good for Israeli weapons manufacturers and the Israeli upper class more broadly. The demonization of Iran fulfills a similar purpose in the American propaganda system, creating consent for a trillion dollars in annual defense spending, although bullying Iran—a symbol of regional defiance to American diktat—has its own advantages.

None of what I’ve written above should be so contentious. The present political economy is a binge for the whole upper class, and everyone benefits: American capital, Israeli capital, and the Arab sheikhs who sell off their national patrimony while their people live in misery. The Lobby isn’t separate from capitalist class-warfare; it’s a component of the system, a part of the machine. Class-warfare occurs along the same lines, whether in Israel or in America.

Militarist ideology plays similar roles in both cases, and the Lobby lubricates the process and strengthens links between American and Israeli policies, playing a role in diverting attention from class issues in both the American Jewish community and Israeli society more broadly. It doesn’t follow that the Lobby is unimportant–it should be analytically dissected and then destroyed. It’s just not the determining influence for American policy in the Middle East, except on Palestine. Of course it isn’t. So why should there be such a ridiculous hullabaloo over that suggestion?

Technorati Tags: Israel, John Mearsheimer, Jonathan Nitzan, militarism, military industrial complex, Palestine, petrodollars, Shimshon Bichler, Steven Walt, Zionism

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