It is no secret that the United States is going through the messy and long-overdue process of overhauling the national budget. Unsurprisingly, it has not been the easiest task: In recent weeks, columnists from across the political spectrum have compared congress’s negotiations to everything from a kindergarten class of “implacable non-productivity” (Liberal columnist Gail Collins) to “the North Korea of fiscal policy” (Conservative columnist David Brooks). During periods of intense political negotiation, it is easy to lose sight of our nation’s priorities; we have seen Republicans and Democrats alike flip-flop more over the past few weeks than even the seasoned political wonk is accustomed to witnessing in Washington. Thankfully, amidst the political and financial squabbling is a glimmer of hope; our continued cooperation with Israel remains as strong as ever.
The US government knows the importance of this strategic relationship, and recognizes that it is essential to support forces of stability and democracy in an increasingly volatile Middle East. Many people overlook the fact that Israel is a vital strategic investment – not only do our strong financial ties with Israel benefit the US economy immeasurably, but Israel is both the only democracy within the region and a strategic ally in the war against terrorism.
To continue reaping the benefits from the US-Israel relationship, U.S military aid to Israel must be maintained. “It is the very strength of Israel’s military which deters potential aggressors and helps foster peace and stability. Ensuring Israel’s military strength and its superiority in the region, is therefore critical to regional stability and as a result is fundamentally a core interest of the United States,” Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs Andrew J Shapiro reminds us.
The importance of the US-Israel relationship extends to domestic military issues as well. Our close relationship with Israel has allowed the US military to learn, in the words of Daniel Feith in the 2003 Harvard Israel Review, “valuable tactical lessons” about successfully combating domestic terrorism, and Israel has always been forthcoming in sharing its military intelligence on terrorist operatives that seek to threaten U.S. national security.
Military cooperation with Israel, “[H]as never been so close. It’s excellent,” said Dan Schueftan, director of the National Security Study Center at Haifa University and a visiting professor at Georgetown. Schueftan said that from joint military exercises to technological sharing, the United States is often on the receiving end of Israeli inventions. “Israel has developed the most advanced anti-ballistic system in the world, thanks to Israeli innovation and U.S. cooperation and funding. Israel then shares that technology with the American military,” which we then have at our disposal. In addition to military technology, the United States reaps the benefits of Israel’s innovative economy in other sectors as well. According to the US Patent Office, Israel has the highest rate of registered medical device patents per capita in the world, with cutting edge innovations such as ingestible cameras, portable cardiac ultrasound systems and instant CT scanners helping to significantly improve global health and well being while at the same time, creating significant investor value.
Beyond gaining this invaluable strategic information and technology, the investment the US makes in Israel pays off economically. According to CNN Senior National Editor Dave Schechter, 74% — about $2 billion a year—of the money we give to Israel returns to our economy in the form of direct purchases of US products and contracts with US companies that employ hardworking Americans, to the tune of approximately 20,000 jobs directly supported, and countless more indirectly supported, by our investment in Israel.
Even with virtually every section of the congressional budget facing cuts, it continues to be essential to maintain robust military aid to and strong ties with Israel. If we are to continue our legacy of supporting democracy and ensure stability in the region, cutting military aid to Israel is simply unacceptable. Our country and economy simply cannot afford to endanger this abundantly fruitful relationship.