US Aid to Israel - a good deal



I appreciate the comments of Mr. SE Durcholz in his recent column, "Another View of Israel" (April 21), in which he referenced my article about Israel from April 9. He raised the issue of US foreign aid to Israel, noting that "Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of US aid..." Such statements, however, without a broader understanding of the various forms of "aid" provided by the US, can be misleading. The point, however, is an important one. It gives us an opportunity to examine US aid abroad, and to determine whether America is getting its money's worth.

The US administers many forms of "aid" around the world. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) provides aid. There are the Peace Corp, food aid, and HIV programs. There are US based NGOs and charity. There are loans and grants from the Import Export Bank, Overseas Private Investment Program, the IMF, the Multilateral Development Bank, and the Heavily Indebted Poor Country Program. Then, there is military aid. When one looks at "aid" given by the US in all its manifestations, the notion that Israel receives one third of all US foreign aid, as Mr. Durcholz contends, becomes untenable.

Israel, the Jewish State, is a tiny nation of 20,325 square kilometers, with a population of 6.4 million. Egypt, by comparison, possesses more than one million square kilometers with a population of 68 million. I use Egypt for comparison because while Israel receives about $2.8 billion per year from the US, Egypt is not far behind at $2 billion annually. With or without US help, the Israeli economic achievement is worth noting. Its GDP is $112 billion (FY 2000). Egypt's is $92 billion. Per capita income in Israel is $17,700. Egypt's is $1,420. Israel exports $28 billion annually. Egypt exports $6 billion. Israel enjoys a high tech economy. Much of Egypt remains pre-industrial. There are currently 110 Israeli companies in the New York Stock Exchange. Egypt has none. US aid to Israel is important, but it does not explain how a small spit of desert on the Mediterranean Sea has managed to build a modern democratic state. For this we must look to the people themselves, and the power of liberal democracy. The Arab nations (among the poorest in the world) should emulate Israel - instead of trying to destroy it.

But let us move to the more important point. What does America get for its money? Of the $2.8 billion Israel receives, $2 billion is for military aid, and almost all of that returns to American defense contractors, creating jobs for Americans. Furthermore, Israel is a strategic ally of the US based not on donations, but on a shared vision of the world. Israel is a stable democracy with a population very friendly to the US. Israel is engaged in the same war against world terrorism as we. Israel was America's essential bulwark against Soviet expansionism in the region during the Cold War. Israel defeated handily former Soviet client states, Egypt and Syria, much to the embarrassment of the Soviet Union. Large amounts of captured Soviet weapons were delivered to the US military for study. Israeli scientists have modified and improved US weapons systems based on their own battlefield experience with them. Israel is an important defense against the hostile intents of Iran and other belligerent states that threaten American interests. It was Israel that destroyed the nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981, without which our later wars against Saddam Hussein may have been impossible. We can ask who else in that critical region is more worthy of our support? Saudi Arabia? Libya? Syria?

It is also enlightening to examine US military aid to other regions of the world. The US contributes more than $130 billion annually for the defense of Europe. There are more than 150,000 troops stationed with NATO. The US pays more than $30 billion per year for the defense of Japan, Korea, and the Far East, with some 40,000 troops stationed there. The number of US troops stationed in Israel - none. Israel fights its own battles, protecting America's interests without jeopardizing a single US soldier. Many in Europe have forgotten their debt to America for liberating them from Nazi and Soviet totalitarianism. Many are violently anti-American. So, too, in South Korea, where many have forgotten the 36,000 Americans that died defending them. Not so, Israel. On the contrary, Israel remains a steadfast friend of the US and its most stable partner in the Middle East. US aid to Israel is one of America's best deals.



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