The Real Problems with U.S. Military Assistance to Israel

April 18, 2019 | Jonathan Tobin
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In a recent interview, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York floated the idea that Congress should consider selectively reducing aid to Israel to punish the country for handing Benjamin Netanyahu an electoral victory. Jonathan Tobin comments that, while Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks conveyed little more than her own ignorance of the issue, there is a better case to be made for reconsidering the nature of Washington’s support for the IDF:

There was a time when Israel desperately needed both U.S. economic and military aid. But in 1996, Netanyahu told a joint session of Congress that it was time to end the economic portion of the assistance. With free-market reforms enabling it to break free of the shackles imposed by its socialist founders, Israel no longer needed economic subsidies. But defense requirements were different. With so many of its foes, including Gulf states, able to buy the most sophisticated U.S. weapons, Israel needed to keep up and maintain a qualitative advantage that ensured its security.

But 23 years later, the political price of accepting U.S. aid remains onerous. It limits Israel’s options and flexibility with respect to defense procurement, especially when it comes to its own industries. It also creates the impression that Israel is a beggar that requires Washington’s assistance in order to defend itself. . . .

For far too long, pro-Israel activism was solely the function of keeping aid flowing to Jerusalem. While the Israel Defense Force has benefited from such assistance, it’s time to acknowledge that the Jewish state is on a path to paying its own way, even when it comes to defense. In the long run, that will be far healthier for both Israel’s economy and for strengthening the relationship between two democracies that should relate to each other as friends and allies, not as a patron and a dependent client state.

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