Despite criticism from a few Americans, U.S. aid to Israel is not really aid as all, and it’s certainly not given out of altruism. Indeed, the $3.8 billion provided annually to Israel by the United States is actually an investment made in our own security—one that delivers an incomparably high return.
Several presidential candidates recently proposed suspending this investment unless the Jewish state does more to support the U.S. goal of facilitating an independent state for the Palestinians. Such proposals, too, mistake the self-interested purpose of these funds and confuses their relationship to a Palestinian peace process.
Let’s put the Israel investment in some context. Foreign aid is usually less than one percent of the U.S. federal budget. The United States currently spends about $75 billion on military operations in and aid for Afghanistan, $65 billion for Iraq and $3.25 billion for Pakistan. The value of this $143.25 billion in spending certainly bears scrutiny, but few Americans complain about it.
Let’s consider the value of the win-win U.S. investment in Israel.
First, U.S. funds do not support day-to-day operations of the Israel Defense Forces, but rather are largely used by Israel to purchase armaments from the United States, such as the F-35 stealth fighter, and to develop together with the United States new, advanced weapon systems, such as the Iron Dome, Arrow 3 and David’s Sling missile defenses.
In short, 70 percent of the U.S. investment in Israel must be spent on U.S. military equipment—which supports U.S. high-tech defense jobs and our industrial base.
Second, the nations and forces that threaten Israel are also those that threaten U.S. interests—Iran, Syria, U.S.-designated terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, and non-state actors like Al Qaeda and Islamic State.
Remember that Israel destroyed both a nuclear weapons factory in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1981 and a Syrian nuclear facility under construction in 2007. Note that Israel has attacked proxies of America’s number one enemy—Iran—in Syria and Lebanon more than 200 times in recent years. It assists Egypt in destroying Al Qaeda cells in the Sinai Peninsula. No nation—anywhere—is more assertive in battling jihadist forces.
Third, Israel is ranked the 8th most powerful nation globally, based on economic influence, political influence, international alliances and military strength. It is not only America’s strongest ally in the Middle East, it is also one of our strongest worldwide. Tellingly, the United Nations General Assembly, for the 28th consecutive year, voted to condemn the United States embargo on Cuba. Last year, only Israel joined the United States in opposing the vote, while this year only Israel and Brazil supported the United States.
Fourth, though no U.S. troops need to be stationed in Israel, we do collaborate on the American/Israeli co-designed X-band radar system, which helps both countries monitor Middle East threats. Indeed, Israel is also a world leader in cyber security and intelligence, providing the United States with a continuous feed of priceless intelligence on Iran, Syria, Russia, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas.
Recall that Israel is reported to have teamed up with the United States to wreak havoc on Iran’s nuclear program via the Stuxnet computer virus. Last year, Israel agents penetrated Iran’s secret nuclear warehouse in Teheran, taking documents that proved Iran’s violations of the 2015 nuclear accord.
Fifth, Israel serves as a port of call for U.S. troops, ships, aircraft and intelligence operations. It is strategically located on the Mediterranean and Red seas, enabling it to monitor (and guard) critical waterways.
In short, as U.S. Representative Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) put it, “For about two percent of what the U.S. spends in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan this year, Americans can take pride in the return on our investment in aid to Israel.” Indeed, it would be hard to find a higher return than that we realize for every dollar we invest in our relationship with the exceedingly friendly and staunchly democratic state of Israel.
Finally, as for linking the U.S. investment in Israel’s security—and our own security—to some type of “progress” in the creation of a Palestinian state, this would be a major mistake on two counts:
First, the United States cannot afford to jeopardize the safety of our nation, or that of our valued ally, Israel, or that of our other friends in the Middle East, for the sake of an unrelated matter, such as Palestinian sovereignty.
Second, after the refusal by the Palestinians of three generous offers of land for peace by Israel since 2000, as well as the Palestinian’s refusal to negotiate further with Israel since 2010, it hardly seems fair to hold Israel solely responsible for the creation of a Palestinian state.
In conclusion, any linkage of the U.S. investment in Israel with a Palestinian state is misplaced and a serious mistake. Our support of Israel is an investment first and foremost in our own security, and secondly in the safety of one of our greatest allies.
James Sinkinson is president of Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.