Wednesday, April 14, 2010

U.S. Aid to Israel: Much Ado About Less and Less

Critics of U.S. foreign policy cite foreign aid to Israel as a source of Arab discontent. The critics of aid to Israel include Europeans, virtually every Arab regime, and secular, left-leaning Jewish Americans, among others. They argue that aid props up Israeli hard-liners who oppose progress toward a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians.

On its face, the criticism seems plausible. On the facts, it is not.

Aid to Israel is a small part of the U.S. aid budget. Aid to Egypt and Jordan along with civilian aid to Iraq and Afghanistan exceeds aid to Israel. However, few argue that this aid props up Arab hard-liners who obstruct peace.

Aid to Israel has varied between $2-4 billion over the past three decades. In the four years 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2009 taken as examples, aid was $2.12 billion, $3.03 billion, $4.13 billion, and $2.55 billion respectively. In the same four years, the size of Israel’s economy, expressed in U.S. dollars at purchasing power parity, was $21.78 billion, $69.10 billion, $159.31 billion, and $201.32 billion.

As a percentage of Israel’s economy, U.S. foreign aid amounted to 9.7 percent, 4.4 percent, 2.6 percent, and 1.3 percent respectively for the four selected years. U.S. aid is symbolic of America’s commitment to Israel, but provides limited resources that “enable” Israel to frustrate peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Perhaps the problem is aid to regimes that prop up hard-line Arab critics of Israel, thus preventing Arab countries from granting official recognition to Israel.

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