Many Americans will be outraged that Israel is requesting a large increase in its annual military aid from the United States. As it stands, Israel is the largest recipient of American aid funding. Why should it currently receive $3+ billion, let alone $5 billion?
First, there is a distinction between economic aid and military aid. Economic aid is given by many countries to many others, for reasons that presumably benefit both sides of the equation. There is no expectation that economic aid will be repaid, unless it is specifically a loan, which may or may not be repaid.
Military aid is something else. While Washington doesn’t publicize the amount of money it spends on NATO, it is a huge annual expenditure. According to uk.businessinsider.com, in 2014 the US spent $582.4 billion on NATO, almost three times more than all the other NATO states combined! Germany, the largest and wealthiest European country, spends slightly over1% of its GDP on its military cost, while the US spends 3+% of its GDP on its military budget. (NATO costs are extra and are not included in America’s military budget of about $750b). wikipedia.org
The EU, though more populous than the US, depends on Washington in many respects for its defense and its foreign policy. The recent “Iran deal” is an example. The EU followed Washington down the rabbit hole to approve the cessation of most sanctions against Iran in the hope that it will Westernize and stop financing terror or developing nuclear weapons. This misconception is irrational because it ignores everything that Iran says and does. The West is preparing to sign off on the Iran deal despite the fact that Iran has not approved it, neither by the legislature nor by the Supreme Leader. Basically, the West simply ignores Iran’s obnoxious, dangerous behavior, preferring to assume that everything will be ok in the end.
Israel harbors no such illusions. It spends about 7.4% of its GDP on the military, the West’s highest ratio. It is fearful of Iran’s growing power and reach, as well as that of the ascendent Islamic State. Both of these adversaries, which thankfully oppose each other as well as Israel, are present just beyond Israel’s borders. Strong as it is, Israel must continue to develop its military prowess to defend itself against these enemies.
America benefits from a strong Israel. Israel provides the US on-the-ground intelligence, technological innovations, staging areas for materiel, a bulwark against terrorists, a stationary “air craft carrier” in the Mediterranean, missile and drone development – and more.
In addition, a very large percentage of Israel’s military aid from the US must be spent there on American made materiel. Thousands of Americans are employed by the military industry to supply what Israel orders. Besides this direct benefit, there is a definite indirect benefit. Israel is prohibited from selling materiel co-developed with the US to countries such as China. Also, Israel’s competitive position in the arms industry is lessened by its purchase of American products instead of the development of Israeli substitutes.
Why does Israel need such a large increase in military aid? Because Iran is being freed from sanctions and will be allowed to continue its nuclear development research; because Iran will receive a windfall of $100+ billion to finance its proxy armies: Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria, Hamas in Gaza, the Republican Guard in Iraq, Africa and South America, and more terror in general; because Iran will be allowed to improve its considerable prowess in ballistic missiles; because the US has left a vacuum in the region by withdrawing troops, downsizing its military, and generally adopting a position which substitutes negotiations for military intervention.
When people complain that Israel receives too much aid from the US, they ignore the fact that the US spends far more on Europe and receives far less bang for the buck. The same goes for South Korea and other places where American troops and materiel are placed.
Israel doesn’t need and doesn’t request that Americans protect it; Israel is quite capable of defending itself. Israel projects a valuable deterrent to terrorism in the Middle East, and beyond. It’s doubtful whether America could replace Israel’s deterrence for less money. There’s no doubt that if Israel didn’t exist, American troops would need to be stationed in the region.
Israel is the best US ally in the Middle East, if not globally. The US spends money on Israel, but the total is only a small percentage of its overall military expenditures. The US gains in many ways by its partnership with Israel, a win-win situation for both countries. By unleashing Iran to become the dominant Muslim power in the region, the US has necessitated increasing American military aid to Israel. The countervailing force provided by Israel is well worth the price.