Speaking March 1 at the American Conservative Union’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Yoram Ettinger stated point-blank that the U.S. does not extend foreign aid to Israel. Rather, he said, “The U.S. makes an annual investment in Israel, and the question is what is the extent of the rate of return?”
Ettinger was a panelist in a discussion examining the contributions of Israel as the only democracy in the Middle East. The session was moderated by Aylana Meisel, strategic initiatives director of the Tikvah Fund.
“I am going to share with you the facts about the rate of return of a few hundred percent annually in real tangible terms, in dollar terms,” Ettinger continued. “For instance, Israel is receiving from the U.S. the F-16 combat airplane manufactured by Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Texas, for which we are very grateful. However, on a daily basis we have shared lessons learned by the Israeli air force with the manufacturer. We have become the most unique battle-tested laboratory for Lockheed Martin and for the entire U.S. defense industry.”
“Those lessons have been transformed into well over 600 modifications in the current generation of the F-16. Upon visiting the plant, I asked the plant manager if he could quantify it in terms of dollars. The response was, ballpark, [it is a] mega-billion bonanza to the manufacturer. We save [the manufacturer] years of research and development. We promote the competitiveness of American products throughout the world, and that basically means more export and wider base of employment,” he said.
The 45th CPAC drew over 9,000 attendees to the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center at the National Harbor in Washington, D.C. An additional 10,000 people viewed the conference via livestream from three satellite sites: one at Colorado Christian University in Denver, Colorado; one at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia; and one at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California.
During his speech on protecting the freedom of Jerusalem, former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Dore Gold also noted how Israel does not ask the U.S. to send troops to defend it.
“We never ask your sons and daughters to come and defend us. You have big American contingents in Europe in NATO, you have big American contingents in Korea. We want to defend ourselves by ourselves,” he said.
“We do need your help for one thing: to help us defeat the diplomatic assaults that Israel and that Jerusalem faces even today.”
“We should pay attention to the very, very special ties between the two countries, which are not a one-way street, but rather a mutually beneficial two-way street which highlights the rare synergy between the leader of the world and again the junior partner. It’s very critical for Israel’s survival, but at the same time renders mega billion-dollar benefit to America both militarily as well as financially,” said Ettinger.
Jewish Presence at CPAC
Young Jewish Conservatives hosted several events with kosher food at the conference, including a networking dinner on Thursday, lunch and a Shabbat dinner on Friday, as well as Shabbat services and lunch on Saturday. About 230 people came to the Shabbat dinner, including some people who were at the conference center exclusively for the Shabbaton.
“This is the eighth year in a row that the Young Jewish Conservatives has had a presence at CPAC,” said Joel Griffith, who chairs the Washington, D.C., chapter of Young Jewish Conservatives. “I would say that the reception for our organization has been overwhelmingly positive. I am very pleased that once again the American Conservative Union that puts on CPAC is sponsoring [the Shabbat program] and we’ll have a number of speakers from CPAC actually talking to our group over the next three days.”
National Council of Young Israel (NCYI) also had representatives at the conference. In terms of agenda, NCYI Director of Government Relations & Policy Communications Nachman Mostofsky said the organization is at the forefront of the pro-Israel movement; “but besides that, as Jews in America we have to understand that a strong America is important for us,” he said. “This movement has been the movement that is behind freedom of education, which is very important to the Jewish community; freedom of speech is extremely important to the Jewish community; [and] freedom of practice.”
He also cited taxes as an area of concern. “Raising taxes on families that are large is very, very difficult, especially when a lot of us live in states that do not give tax credits for education,” he said.
By Zachary Leshin
Zachary Leshin has lived in DC since 2012 and recently graduated with a master’s degree in statecraft and national security from the Institute of World Politics. He previously worked as a legislative assistant to a congressman who served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and as a reporter for CNSNews.com covering Capitol Hill.