The U.S. does not give foreign aid to Israel, the U.S. makes an annual investment in Israel, one that provides the American taxpayer a return on investment of several hundred percent.

Is that a valid statement?

While Israel is a grateful recipient of several hundred U.S. military systems, it also serves as a battle-tested, cost-effective laboratory for the U.S. defense and aerospace industries, which employ—directly and indirectly—3.5 million Americans. Moreover, the Israel Defense Forces serve as a laboratory for the U.S. military itself, which enhances U.S. performance on the battlefield.

By serving as such a laboratory, Israel enhances the economy, national security and homeland security of the United States.

For example, the Israeli Air Force flies the U.S. company Lockheed-Martin’s F-16 and F-35 combat aircraft. This provides both Lockheed-Martin and the U.S. Air Force with invaluable information on operations, maintenance and repairs.  This information is then used to manufacture a multitude of upgrades for next-generation aircraft.

The F-16 itself has been improved by several hundred Israeli-driven upgrades, including to the cockpit, fire control, wings and fuel tanks. This has spared Lockheed-Martin 10-20 years of research and development—which would have cost billions of dollars. It also enhances the company’s global competitiveness, increases its multi-billion-dollar exports and expands its employment base. Similar advantages are enjoyed by Boeing, the manufacturer of the F-15, which is also flown and upgraded by the Israeli Air Force.

Indeed, Israel is the Triple-A store for Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, G.D., Northrop Grumman, L3Harris Technologies, G.E., Oshkosh, Honeywell and many other U.S. defense and aerospace companies. This enhances the image of these companies abroad and multiplies their export markets, because other countries assume that if Israel—with its unique national security challenges—uses these companies’ products, they must be of high quality.

Furthermore, Israel shares its battle tactics with the U.S. Since the two countries face mutual threats from conventional forces and terrorists—who are often equipped with Russian, Chinese and Iranian military systems—this is of great importance. Indeed, many U.S. battle tactics have been formulated based on Israeli combat experience.

For example, U.S. special operations units and urban warfare specialists are trained by Israeli experts in neutralizing car bombs, improvised explosive devices and suicide bombers. U.S. combat pilots benefit greatly from joint maneuvers with highly-experienced Israeli combat pilots, who always fly in a do-or-die state of mind and are thus forced to employ creativity and audacity, fully exploiting the capabilities of U.S.-made combat aircraft.

These benefits extend to the realm of intelligence. According to a former head of U.S. Air Force Intelligence, Gen. George Keegan, the U.S. would have to establish five CIAs in order to procure the intelligence provided by Israel. The annual budget of the CIA is around $15 billion.

According to the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, who was Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and Intelligence Committee, the scope of Israeli intelligence shared with the U.S. exceeded the intelligence provided by all NATO countries combined. Israeli intelligence helped foil terrorist, kidnapping and bombing plots against the U.S., secured airliners and airports and provided vital data on advanced Soviet/Russian military systems.

Israel is a unique force multiplier for the United States, helping to extend America’s strategic reach, so it can secure vulnerable pro-U.S. Arab oil-producing regimes and deter conventional wars and terrorism. With Israel’s help, the United States can do this without the deployment of U.S. troops, which is not the case with countries like Japan and South Korea.

The late Gen. Alexander Haig, who served as NATO’s Supreme Commander and U.S. Secretary of State, and Adm. Elmo Zumwalt once stated: “Israel is the largest U.S. aircraft carrier, which does not require American soldiers on board, cannot be sunk and is deployed in a most critical region (between Europe-Asia-Africa and between the Mediterranean-Red Sea-Indian Ocean-Persian Gulf), sparing the U.S. the need to manufacture, deploy and maintain a few more real aircraft carriers and additional ground divisions, which would cost the U.S. taxpayer some $15 billion annually.”

Israel is also an asset to the U.S. tech sector. More than 200 top American high-tech companies—such as Intel, Microsoft, Cisco, IBM, Apple, Johnson & Johnson, Google and Facebook—which employ several million Americans, have established research and development centers in Israel. They use Israel’s brainpower to increase U.S. production and expand U.S. exports and employment. U.S. commercial industries, like defense industries, have realized that Israel is a critical partner in sustaining their edge over China, Russia, Europe and Japan in the development and manufacture of game-changing commercial and military technologies.

In conclusion, the U.S.-Israel strategic relationship constitutes a classic case of a mutually-beneficial two-way street, one that enhances the economies and defense of both countries and benefits Israeli and American taxpayers alike.

Yoram Ettinger is a former ambassador and head of Second Thought: A U.S.-Israel Initiative.

This article was originally published by The Ettinger Report.

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