America’s Contributions to the Israeli Military Strengthen Both Countries

August 15, 2023 | Elliott Abrams
About the author: Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and is the chairman of the Tikvah Fund.

Some critics of U.S. military aid to Israel believe it should be brought to an end because they think the Jewish state uniquely evil. To others, this assistance isn’t worth the price tag because it doesn’t give Washington enough control over Jerusalem. To still others, American aid gives the White House too much control over the Jewish state, compromising its independence. Elliott Abrams dismantles this last argument:

In 1981, the United States provided Israel with $4.5 billion in economic and military aid at a time when the entire GDP of the Jewish state was only $25.4 billion—yet Prime Minister Menachem Begin felt free to attack the Osirak reactor in Iraq. In 2007, President George W. Bush told Prime Minister Ehud Olmert not to attack the Syrian nuclear reactor, and Olmert rejected the advice and did so anyway. There are plenty of other examples demonstrating that Israeli military and political leaders do not act as though they have been “crippled” by U.S. aid.

The aid program, [moreover], guarantees continuing, long-term, intimate work between Israeli and American defense experts, military officers, and defense industries. It makes American defense manufacturers sensitive to the Israeli market and allows them to deal with a customer who always pays in full and on time. No doubt the military alliance and intelligence-sharing would not disappear [if aid ended], but both would be weakened. Why would any supporter of Israel want what is now an intimate and continuing relationship to be reduced to one that is merely transactional?

Finally, these opponents of military aid claim that it gives fodder for anti-Semites and Israel haters:

But anti-Semitism is hardy in countries all over the world that have no relations with Israel and give her no aid, and in friendly countries that give no aid, and in hostile countries—in short, all over the place. What anti-Semites oppose is Jews. Yes, the extent of U.S. aid to Israel is an argument they sometimes use. So is the existence of Jewish organizations, and Jewish-owned companies, rich and famous Jews, and Jewish officials and politicians. You cannot eliminate the weapons anti-Semites use because they use every aspect of Jewish life, influence, and power. American Jews worried about American anti-Semitism should address that problem at home and not burden the Israelis—and American military support for Israel—with that task.

For the United States to end military aid today would send a message to all of Israel’s enemies that Israel’s greatest friend was stepping away, so they should double down on their plans for more, and more deadly, assaults on the Jewish state.

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