By John B. Quigley
When Congress reconvenes in September, aid to Egypt will be a hot-button issue.
The Obama administration has asserted with a straight face that the July 3 removal from power in Cairo of elected President Mohamed Morsi is not a military coup. That assertion evades congressional restrictions on aid to countries that thwart democracy.
Regardless, U.S. military aid to Egypt, totaling more than a billion dollars annually, should be ended. That aid originated three decades ago to reward Egypt for signing the Camp David agreements of 1979.
By signing the accord, Egypt removed itself from what had been a united Arab front in support of a just accommodation for the Palestinians vis-a-vis Israel. The U.S. aid was given to encourage Egypt to live up to this sellout.
The result has been disastrous for the cause of peace in the Middle East. The Palestine-Israel conflict has only worsened, and the Arab countries have been neutralized as a pressure force.
Israel too was rewarded financially for Camp David, with military aid now topping $3 billion annually. There is little justification for continuation of aid either to Egypt or to Israel.
For Egypt, U.S. taxpayers have provided more jet fighters and tanks than it can ever use. This equipment is produced by U.S. firms, which are paid handsomely by the U.S. Treasury. The firms, the real beneficiaries of our aid to Egypt, operate a highly sophisticated lobby in Congress to keep the money flowing.
Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) tried to stop military aid to Egypt, but only a handful of his colleagues supported him in a Senate vote on July 31. However, the effort has put together a coalition of conservatives skeptical of foreign aid and liberals concerned about democracy.
That coalition not only faces pressure from U.S. military contractors, but also from Israel, which supports aid to Egypt because it helps keep that country neutralized and thus allows Israel to continue taking over more Palestinian territory for settlements. That construction, of course, renders the Palestine-Israel conflict ever more intractable. However, Israel's hand in American policy is sufficiently decisive that Congress is unlikely to take action that Israel opposes.
Congress should stop catering to military contractors and to Israel. It should end military aid to Egypt - and while it is at it, to Israel as well.