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Israel now flies 16 F35 Lightning Stealth Bombers, similar to the one depicted, to maintain air superiority against threats from Iran and other nations hostile to Israel and the U.S. Purchase of these planes is made possible by U.S. foreign aid.
Aid to Israel Makes the U.S. Safer
U.S. aid to Israel is really not aid at all. The $3.8 billion sent annually to Israel is an investment in our own country’s security, returning many times its cost.
Despite frequent misconceptions, U.S. aid to Israel is no gift—but actually a calculated expense that ensures our regional interests and the safety of our country and its troops—one that delivers a higher return on investment than foreign aid to any other nation.
What are the facts?
Several American politicians have proposed withholding U.S. aid to Israel unless it does more to support a Palestinian state, such as ceasing to build housing in Judea-Samaria (the West Bank). This proposal ignores the real purpose of U.S. aid to Israel and confuses the relationship of Israel’s settlements to a Palestinian peace process.
A bit of context helps explain this disconnect: Consider that the U.S. currently spends $143.25 billion a year on military operations and aid for Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. Contrast that amount with the overwhelming value America receives for its $3.8 billion investment in Israel.
1) U.S. funds do not support Israel’s day-to-day military operations, but rather are largely used to purchase world-class armaments, such as U.S.-manufactured F-35 stealth fighters and to develop, with the U.S., new advanced weapon systems, such as Iron Dome, Arrow 3 and David’s Sling missile defenses. Note that fully 70% of the U.S. investment in Israel must be spent to purchase U.S. military equipment—which supports U.S. high-tech defense jobs and our industrial base.
2) The nations and forces that threaten Israel also threaten U.S. interests—these include Iran, Syria, and U.S.-designated terror groups like Hizbollah, Hamas, al Qaeda and ISIS. Remember that Israel destroyed both Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons factory in Iraq in 1981 and a nuclear facility in Syria in 2007. Recall that Israel has attacked proxies of America’s number one enemy—Iran—in Syria and Lebanon more than 200 times in recent years. Israel assists Egypt in fighting al Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula. No nation—anywhere—battles jihadists more assertively than Israel.
3) Our ally Israel is ranked the 8th most powerful nation globally, based on economic and political influence, international alliances and military strength. Israel is not only America’s strongest Middle East ally, it is also one of our strongest globally.
4) No U.S. troops need to be stationed in Israel. While U.S. forces never do Israel’s fighting for it, Israel does collaborate with the U.S. on the X-band radar system, which helps both countries monitor regional threats. Israel is also a world leader in cybersecurity and intelligence gathering, providing the U.S. a priceless feed of classified information about Iran, Syria, Russia, al Qaeda, Hizbollah and Hamas. In addition, Israel worked with the U.S. to weaken Iranian nuclear weapons operations using the Stuxnet virus, and last year Israeli agents penetrated Iran’s secret nuclear warehouse in Teheran, taking documents that proved Iran’s cheating on the 2015 nuclear deal.
5) Israel serves as a port of call for U.S. troops, ships, aircraft and intelligence operations. Strategically located on the Mediterranean and Red Seas, Israel guards critical waterways used for international shipping and military activities. As U.S. Representative Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) puts it, “For about 2 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.”
Those who seek to link U.S. investment in Israel to creation of a Palestinian state, make a fundamental mistake: First, it would be foolhardy for the U.S. to jeopardize its regional security interests—or those of our valued ally, Israel—for the sake of the unrelated matter of Palestinian sovereignty. Second, after the Palestinians’ refusal of three generous offers of land for peace by Israel since 2000, as well as their refusal to negotiate with Israel since 2010, it’s unfair to hold Israel solely responsible for their statelessness. (See the real obstacles to Palestinian statehood.)
U.S. aid to Israel dramatically limits U.S. need to send troops to the explosive Middle East and ensures Israel can support U.S. interests in the region. Indeed, our investment in Israel is returned many times over—often not the case for other U.S. aid. Thus, any linkage of the U.S. investment in Israel with a Palestinian state is misguided. U.S. aid to Israel helps guarantee our own security, but also the safety of one of our greatest allies.