US Aid to Israel: Occupation paid for by you
US Aid to Israel (Also see: Links)
Marc Lance http://www.sustaincampaign.org/presentations_resources/articles/gen_lance.html
The question of how much aid the US gives to Israel each year is not an easy one to answer precisely. Certain parts of the aid are clear, namely our direct bi-lateral aid which appears as part of the foreign aid budget. But there are many other categories of aid which are harder to find in the massive federal budget, hard to estimate in terms of actual value, or which are simply unknown.
The category of direct bi-lateral aid alone is staggering. The House of Representatives has appropriated $2.04 billion in military aid to Israel for next year (up from $1.98 billion this year) in addition to $840 million in economic support funds. The total amount of US aid of this sort has been constant, at around $3 billion, for many years, but there is a current ten year plan to phase out economic aid and provide corresponding increases in military aid.
Israel is the single largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid nearly one-third of the total direct bi-lateral aid. If we exclude Egypt whose disproportionate share of aid came as a result of agreements made with Israel at Camp David, and Columbia, which receives enormous aid to prosecute a brutal military campaign allegedly aimed at drug trafficking, Israel receives more than all of Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa combined. That is, one of the richest countries in the world, a country of around 6 million people, receives more aid than two entire continents including some of the poorest regions in the world. This aid amounts to around $500 per year for every Israeli citizen and more if we exclude the Palestinian citizens of Israel who receive few if any benefits from the money (none of this aid goes directly to Palestinians living in the occupied territories). To take one other comparison, the US has put forward less than $300 million to fight AIDS in Africa. So roughly 10 times more money goes to Israel than goes to fight the greatest plague the earth has seen since the middle ages.
Other aid to Israel is harder to calculate. Much is buried in DoD (Department of Defense) budgets and some costs such as lost interest from early disbursement, forgiven loans, etc. is difficult to calculate. Nonetheless, many estimates put total aid at near $5.5 billion. One should not be confident of any particular number here, but there are clear categories of aid not included in the foreign aid budget: research and development support for weapons systems, joint military training, loan guarantees, loans that are later forgiven, gifts of military hardware, access to US military intelligence, special grants for refugee resettlement, and early disbursement of funds.
This last category is not widely known. There are at least two ways in which Israeli aid is different from that of any other country. First, it is transferred to Israel in one lump sum at the beginning of each fiscal year. Other countries’ aid is disbursed throughout the year. This, of course, costs the US interest on the money. Second, Israel needn’t account for specific purchases. Most countries receive aid for very specific purposes and must account for how it is spent. Israel is allowed to place US aid into its general fund, effectively eliminating any distinctions between types of aid.
US loans to Israel are also a source of much confusion. Israel owes the U.S. government almost $3 billion in economic and military loans. It is often stated by Israeli officials that Israel has never defaulted on a loan from the United States. This is true, but only because loans are waived before default can occur. From FY 1994 through FY 1998, Israel received $29 billion in waived loans. Currently, the total U.S. contingent liability for Israeli loans the amount the US will owe if outstanding loans are not repaid is about $10 billion.
Finally, it is worth noting how this aid is spent. After the Intifada began last fall, Israel requested additional shipments of Black Hawk and Apache helicopters. These weapons have been used to fire missiles into civilian neighborhoods and to assassinate Palestinians throughout the Intifada. In June 2001 Israel requested 50 additional F-16 fighter jets. These purchases would, if approved by Congress, be financed largely by U.S. military aid. Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) requested that President Bush investigate whether Israel’s use of these weapons violated the Arms Export Control Act, which stipulates that U.S.-supplied weapons be used only for legitimate self-defense. The White House has not issued a public response.
Moreover, the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act prohibits military assistance to any country which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights. The State Department, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, LAW , B’tselem, Al-Haq, and other human rights groups have all confirmed that in attempting to suppress the intifada Israel has employed collective punishments, home demolitions, detention without charges, torture of detainees, extra-judicial killings, and other violations of Palestinian human rights.
Finally, the Proxmire amendment bans military assistance to any government that refuses to sign the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty and to allow inspection of its nuclear facilities, which Israel refuses to do. Presidential and Congressional indulgence of Israel has allowed it to respond to the Palestinian intifada with massively disproportionate force, escalating the conflict beyond any possibility of a peaceful resolution in the foreseeable future.
Author is a professor of philosophy at Georgetown University, and founder of SUSTAIN.