The US gives Israel no aid. The money euphemistically called aid is anything but that. There are three types of aid in Judaism: hesed (given of pure goodwill, not owed), tzedakah (owed for moral reasons), and mishpat (owed for legal reasons). None of those categories apply to Israeli-American relations. America possesses neither selfless goodwill, nor moral or legal obligations toward Israel. The annual subsidies are bribes at worst, payments at best.
America pays Israel for influence in the Middle East. Controlling the Middle Eastern bully is America’s greatest regional asset. America receives immense leverage in its dealings with Muslims by the fact of controlling their major enemy. That achievement did not come easy: America failed to replicate it with Pakistan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Germany, Japan, and several other countries. America has two contradictory policies: isolation and world outreach. Aligning itself with regional hegemonies is the only way to resolve that political dichotomy. Tried in many countries, the US policy of regional alignment succeeded only with Israel. Only the Jews were ready to sell sovereignty.
The aid to Israel is an extremely efficient investment. America spent more than $300 billion for the second Iraqi invasion, but the debacle discredited it: Iran ignores American threats and Muslim countries continue jacking up the price of oil. Israel is given 1 percent of that amount in annual installments, and in return greatly reinforces US standing in the Middle East: Arabs can always appeal to America against Israel, and America generally listens to them.
The American aid is insulting. In Jewish law, it is an obligation of every individual to avoid being a burden to society at any cost; charity is the last measure for those who cannot support themselves. It is outrageous for the Jewish nation to plead for aid with Gentiles. Israelis are not that poor, and the aid is not that great. Ending the huge subsidies to Israeli Arabs and non-working Jews, reducing socialist pensions and job benefits in the Histadrut trade union, and firing a large number of useless bureaucrats would more than offset the lost aid. Sensible free-market economic policy rather than the post-socialist regulatory abomination would propel the Israeli economy. The IDF can be reduced, long-term conscription abandoned, and a lot of money saved if Israel officially relies on a nuclear deterrent in any large-scale war.
The amount of US aid, about $3 billion, has remained steady in nominal dollars since 1979, while the CPI has increased by more than three times during that period. The cost of weapons increases much faster than the CPI, and the amount which was substantial in 1979 is now negligible. The aid comprises 0.02 percent of the US GDP and 0.5 percent of its military budget. For Israel the figures are, respectively, 1.5 percent and 17 percent. Though even the 17 percent can be realistically offset by streamlining the Israeli army, the situation is actually much simpler: Israel spends 77 percent of the American aid for American weapons. R&D is a major part of advance weapons costing, and Israeli purchases help amortizing it. In effect, Israel receives the US subsidies in order to pass them to the US military contractors. The comparable Russian weapons—not exactly of the same quality, but still very good and sufficient for fighting the Arabs—cost four to seven times less. In terms of purchasing-power parity with Russia, US military aid to Israel amounts to about half a billion dollars annually and close to 3 percent of Israel’s military budget. Some of the weapons Israel procures in America are virtually useless, untested, hyper-expensive military toys, superfluous in real combat. Addicted to US weapons, the Israeli army came to resemble its American counterpart in terms of inefficiency, skyrocketing costs, and the lack of training and daring spirit.
Large-scale procurement of American weapons has made Israel dependent on America for any military operations and highly susceptible to threats of an American embargo on arms deliveries. Israel currently places tens of thousands of small (less than $100,000) orders with US defense contractors, which suggests across-the-board dependence on American suppliers for spare parts and minor items. That creates immense political dependence on the US.
The general-purpose American aid to Israel is now being phased out, and for good, as it was spent in the most corrupt manner and hardly benefited common Israelis. The extraordinary aid packages were always detrimental to Israel as they were tied to sweeping political concessions such as evacuating Gaza, a move which created a power vacuum in which Hamas quickly established itself.
The amount of US aid to Israel is comparable to private Jewish contributions, about $1 billion through charities and $500 million in Israeli bonds. Israel could reasonably double those contributions by a stronger Diaspora outreach program.
The balance of aid benefits the enemies of Israel. Egypt gets $1.3 billion in military aid annually, even though its only target and potential enemy is Israel. America knowingly and willingly funds an anti-Israeli army. Egypt also receives $500 million in general purpose aid, which frees an equal amount of its own resources for military programs. American aid is much more critical to impoverished Egypt than to Israel, and so the cessation of foreign aid to all parties benefits Israel.
America also aids Palestine; though the money nominally bypasses the PLO, it pays the salaries of PLO functionaries and employees. Now America directly funds Fatah, which even pays Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades and Hamas employees in Gaza with that money. In Palestine, America directly finances anti-Israeli terrorist infrastructure.
Not only US aid, but also US arms sales are doubtfully helpful to Israel. America traditionally offsets arms sales to Israel with deliveries to Arab states. Arab procurement of US weapons greatly exceeds Israel’s. A joint US-Russian arms embargo on the Middle East would benefit Israel: she is able to manufacture most weapons while the Arabs cannot, and Israel has an edge over the Arabs in arms-smuggling and grey-market procurement.
Arabs recognize the dubious value of US support. For example, Jordan, the Arab country closest to the US, supported Saddam in the Iraq-Kuwait war. Jordan was afraid of Saddam and did not count on US help.
The campaign to end US foreign aid should also include ending goodwill military campaigns, such as liberating the petty emirate of Kuwait. Israel would benefit from a still wider policy, namely America’s return to its traditional isolation. Taking the US bases out of the Gulf countries would leave Israel as America’s only juggernaut in the Middle East, and actually increase the US establishment’s dependence on Israel.