The United States’ generous security assistance to Israel is widely known. Less well publicized is the fact that 75% of those funds are spent in the U.S., and by stipulation this percentage increases annually. This translates into American jobs in technology and manufacturing. It is also part of a collaborative partnership that strengthens the security of both countries and encompasses vital defense technology, intelligence sharing, and cyber security.
The David’s Sling missile defense network was co-developed by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, and U.S. defense contractor Raytheon. Similar to Iron Dome, which intercepts short-range rockets, David’s Sling neutralizes medium-range missiles, long range artillery rockets, attack drones and cruise missiles. A crucial component was developed by Raytheon in Tucson. That facility employs thousands of Americans and works with hundreds of suppliers across Arizona.
The F-35 is the most advanced fighter jet ever created, combining speed, stealth, kinetic force, and state of art control systems. The jets are manufactured at a Lockheed Martin facility in Fort Worth, Texas. Key components are manufactured in Israel. The helmets, designed with the help of an Israeli technology firm with facilities in Fort Worth, allow pilots to aim their weapons with eye-tracking software, toggle to night vision, and see in every direction and above and below the plane with advanced camera technology.
In Israel, a haven for start-ups in a variety of industries, the development of defense technology is a matter of survival. Tiny in both land mass and population, its 7 million Jews live amidst some 300 million Arab and Muslim neighbors in the Middle East and North Africa. Neither the region nor Israel’s more immediate neighborhood is known for its affinity for Jews. In south Lebanon, Hezbollah has some 140,000 missiles and rockets pointed toward Israel. Gaza–about an hour’s drive from Tel Aviv–is run by Hamas, a terror organization whose founding charter calls for Israel’s obliteration. In the West Bank is the Palestinian Authority—sometimes called the more “moderate” group but also known for naming schools after terrorists and for codifying a “pay for slay” reward system. ISIS now looms both in Syria and the Sinai Peninsula. Then there is Iran, which tests ballistic missiles emblazoned with the message (in Hebrew lettering) that Israel should be “wiped off the earth.”
This is akin to being the smallest kid and the only Jew, in a schoolyard where barbarism prevails and some consider it a sacred duty to kill Jews. But this kid has come to understand that he has two choices: either learn how to protect himself, or perish like his grandparents who were among 6 million lambs led to slaughter. He has also learned that while the value of deterrence is inestimable, logic and reason do not dissuade jihadists.
Israel has thus managed to fend off an unending series of wars, intifadas, and terror attacks. Yet, as a result of its unenviable predicament, it has acquired extraordinary practical experience in the modern arts of self-defense. Does any nation have more data points or “trial and error” training in the developing science of intercepting incoming missiles, or in protecting civilian population centers from the latest in terror tactics? Israel has, by necessity, become a global leader in counterintelligence and cyber security, and that is the principal reason it still exists. And, Israel readily shares this information with its one true ally and friend, the United States.
None of this is to say that U.S. assistance is not vital to Israel’s interests. The figure, exceeding $3 billion a year, is most generous. Surely the U.S. contributes more to Israel’s security than Israel is able to give back in return.
But there are distinctions here, between the synergy of the U.S.-Israel relationship, and that between the U.S. and other recipients of its generous foreign aid.
Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East, a region where institutions designed to safeguard personal rights and freedom do not easily take root. And, the U.S. and Israel share many common security threats. The dividends accrued through the collaboration of these two natural allies are readily apparent. Such synergy is more difficult to identify with other beneficiaries of generous U.S. aid, such as Pakistan, Yemen, the Palestinian Authority, and Lebanon.
Finally, if you are an American who wonders whether the people of Israel appreciate the support, pay a visit to “the startup nation” where flowers bloom in the desert, freedom and diversity thrive, and the dream of living in peace is in constant renewal. You will find inspiration and common values, and be embraced as a cherished friend.