In my youth, despite the fact that I lived in an Episcopalian-identifying household, I was steeped in Jewish culture. This was because I attended a Jewish day school, and while there, I studied the Tanach, and learned Hebrew for eight years. This upbringing also molded my political perception of Israel into a pro-Israel stance. It was not until high school that I experienced peers who did not have the same Israeli-loving position that I and my former peers and teachers identified with. Once I had been exposed to some points from Palestinian sympathizers, I understood why people were strongly against the establishment of Israel. Currently I am torn about which side of the debate I identify with, due to the fact I have had many friends take gap-years there, and I even have two very close friends of mine serving in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) (one is actually leaving for duty tomorrow afternoon). I want to stress that this is not an opinion piece, I am just laying out the amount of aid that Israel has received from the United States, and the economic implications of this transaction.
Since 1973, Israel has received the highest amount of foreign economic and military aid from the United States compared to any other country receiving American aid. In fact, since 1976 they have been the largest recipients of U.S. economic aid since World War II. According to the Congressional Research Services report “U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel” by Jeremy M. Sharpe, In 2007, The Bush Administration and the Israeli Government decided on a 10-year $30 billion military aid package (FY 2009-FY 2018). Furthermore, the U.S. also contributed $504 million to Israel’s Anti-Missile Defense project called the Iron Dome, and are predicted to spend another $273 million in 2015. If both of these figures are combined ($3.1 billion per year + $504 million) this is an average of $9.9 million dollars per day coming directly from U.S. taxes (Sharpe, U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel). Looking at the numbers produced from Sharpe’s CRS report, Israel will receive 55% of total U.S. foreign military financing in 2015, accounting for just under 25% of Israel’s entire defense budget. In total, the United States has given roughly $130 billion (inflation not taken into consideration) of aid to Israel (Madar)
Looking at the amount of aid we send to Israel, it leaves me asking a two simple economic question: why is our demand for Israel’s approval so high, and why is it so focused on militarization? The answer that people give the most often is, that Israel and the United States are allies. Sure, this makes sense to me, obviously the United States needs a strong ally in the Middle East, but it is impossible to argue that the United States needs Israel more than Israel needs the United States (Madar). Without the United States Israel would not be on the map; however, since the United States has so unevenly distributed the wealth, Israel is able to expand into sections that are not theirs, and create more conflict with Palestinians rather focus on funding to help resolution in the Middle-East. Generally this is not a highly publicized situation, but I wonder what U.S. citizens would preference: The advantages gained with more spending on Israel’s militarization, or a slightly different distribution on foreign aid focused more on humanitarian efforts? It all is based on opportunity cost, but what would really be interesting would be a PPF of humanitarian-focused foreign aid and military-focused foreign aid, especially since Israel has a with “a per-head gross domestic product on par with the European Union average, and higher than that of Italy, Spain, or South Korea” (Madar).
Madar, Chase. “Washington’s Military Aid to Israel.” Huffington Post, 2 Oct. 2014. Web. 10 Aug. 2014.
Sharp, Jeremy M. U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel. 11 Apr. 2014. Web. 18 Oct. 2014.
U.S. Military Aid and the Israel/Palestine Conflict. 2014. Web. 18 Oct. 2014.