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WEDNESDAY, JULY 13, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Israel financial request smells like coercion

Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres would do well to pull out a legal textbook on contracts as he seeks financial aid from the United States.

An exception to the rule that a contract binds the parties to their agreement is the defense of coercion. The law recognizes that there are times when one contracting party manipulates the other. In such cases, the law authorizes the coerced person to get out of the deal.

The textbook example of coercion involves a roofer. If a roofer and his customer agree the total cost of a project will be $1,000, the roofer cannot strip the old roof and then demand another $1,000 to put a new one on before the rain starts. Even if the customer agrees to the holdup, he can get out of the deal after the roofer finishes the project.

Israel's request for $2.2 billion from the United States to help it finance a withdrawal from the Gaza Strip may supplant the roofing example in law books of the future as the classic example of coercion.

The United States has been a generous — some would say too generous — friend to Israel. The small nation already receives more American money than any other country, $2.3 billion a year. Our friendship has not wavered even as militant Muslims attacked us for Israel's actions.

We have remained steadfast even after discovering Israel planted a spy in our government.

One of the most important things we have done to assist our ally is broker a truce between Israel and Palestine. It is a truce that, if successful, will save Israelis from dying at the hands of extremists.

The lynchpin of the truce is that Israel withdraw its settlers from the hotly contested Gaza Strip. This is why Israel's request that the United States fork over $2.2 billion to finance the Gaza Strip withdrawal feels a lot like coercion.

If we agree to the request, we should save our receipt. Maybe we can get our money back when the deal is done.

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