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Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy


Since the October War in 1973, Washington has provided Israel with a level of support dwarfing the amounts provided to any other state.  It has been the largest annual recipient of direct U.S. economic and military assistance since 1976 and the largest total recipient since World War II.  Total direct U.S. aid to Israel amounts to well over $140 billion in 2003 dollars. [2]

Israel receives about $3 billion in direct foreign assistance each year, which is roughly one‐fifth of America’s foreign aid budget.  In per capita terms, the United States gives each Israeli a direct subsidy worth about $500 per year. [3]

This largesse is especially striking when one realizes that Israel is now a wealthy industrial state with a per capita income roughly equal to South Korea or Spain. [4] Israel also gets other special deals from Washington. [5]

Other aid recipients get their money in quarterly instalments, but Israel receives its entire appropriation at the beginning of each fiscal year and thus earns extra interest.  Most recipients of American military assistance are required to spend all of it in the United States, but Israel can use roughly twenty‐five percent of its aid allotment to subsidize its own defense industry.  Israel is the only recipient that does not have to account for how the aid is spent, an exemption that makes it virtually impossible to prevent the money from being used for purposes the United States opposes, like building settlements in the West Bank.

Moreover, the United States has provided Israel with nearly $3 billion to develop weapons systems like the Lavi aircraft that the Pentagon did not want or need, while giving Israel access to top‐drawer U.S. weaponry like Blackhawk helicopters and F‐16 jets.  Finally, the United States gives Israel access to 2intelligence that it denies its NATO allies and has turned a blind eye towards Israel’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. [6]


[2] According to the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) “Greenbook,” which reports “overseas loans and grants,” Israel has received $140,142,800 (in constant 2003 dollars) from the United States through 2003. Downloaded from the “Greenbook” web site [] on November 8, 2005.

[3] According to the “Greenbook,” Israel received about $3.7 billion in direct aid from the United States in 2003. Israel’s population according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies [IISS] and the CIA is 6,276,883. IISS, The Military Balance: 2005‐2006 (Oxfordshire: Routledge, 2005), p. 192;  
That averages out to $589 per Israeli. If one assumes the same population size and $3 billion in total aid, then each Israeli receives $478.

[4] See; World Bank Atlas (Washington, DC: Development Data Group, World Bank, September 2004), pp. 64‐65.

[5] For a discussion of the various special deals that Israel receives, see Clyde R. Mark, “Israel: U.S. Foreign Assistance,” Issue Brief for Congress (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, April 26, 2005).  

[6] Avner Cohen, Israel and the Bomb (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999); Seymour M. Hersh, The Samson Option: Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy (New York: Random House, 1991).


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