Yet another iteration to this question, which is clearly one of the most commonly asked on Quora:
Why does the US give ‘financial support’ for Israel?
The US government has decided that spending in excess of $120 billion per year to promote its geopolitical goals is worth it. And the $3 billion of credits that is given to Israel against purchase of US military hardware is chump change compared to what it actually spends on other allies.
David Vine, a professor at American University, states in Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World that there are 150,500 American troops stationed in seventy countries around the globe. The cost estimate to the American taxpayer annually is at least $85-100 billion. Once the real costs are calculated, the largest aid recipient is Japan, where 48,828 US military personnel are stationed. This translates into a US military aid package of over $27 billion. Germany, with 37,704 US troops on its soil, receives aid equivalent to around $21 billion; South Korea, with 27,553 US troops, receives over $15 billion; and Italy receives at least $6 billion.
What does the US government get from those credits?
While the Israel-haters would like to present the US military aid package as some kind of ‘no strings attached’ gift, the reality is more of an exchange of goods and services, as well as the fulfillment of promises made by the US in peace treaties.
Containment of Soviet/Russian Influence
One telling point is that the US did not support Israel militarily until after 1967, and economically perhaps not until the 1980’s. The Cold War dominated US geopolitics, spurring endless operations to contain Soviet influence in nearly every corner of the globe. Only when Israel proved itself as a worthwhile adversary to the Soviet client states that surrounded it in 1967 did the US support begin.Although the Cold War is over, in many ways the US behavior towards Russia is similar to that of the USSR. In the following chart, note how the nations who receive the most US aid are adjacent to Russia and her allies (Syria, Iran, Hizbullah).
A US aircraft carrier in a troubled region
Israel exists in a highly strategic and yet highly unstable region. And even the most ardent Israel-hater must agree that Israel can be counted upon as a reliable US ally. US Secretary of State Alexander Haig likened Israel to “the largest American aircraft carrier in the world that cannot be sunk, does not carry even one American soldier, and is located in a critical region for American national security.” It could be added that this ‘aircraft carrier’ does not cost nearly as much as the floating variety (carriers are hugely expensive to build and maintain). It could and perhaps should also be noted that the US does now operate a very small base in Israel, with about 100 personnel. Israel philosophically finds it distasteful to have a foreign base on its soil, but the size and benefits of this mini-base were enough for it to make this one exception.
The cost of maintaining a US military presence in Germany and Japan, very wealthy nations which exist in much less volatile or strategic regions, is estimated to cost US taxpayers at least $20 billion per year for each nation. Israel is quite a bargain in comparison.
Balance of military aid
US provides economic and military aid to several nations who exhibit lukewarm acceptance of Israel’s existence if not outright hostility. Israel’s immediate neighbors figure large on the list of US aid, as do the terror centers of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Camp David Accords, which provides many geopolitical benefits to the US, promised Egypt substantial economic and military aid. If one wants to be seen as fair and balanced, equal assistance must be given to both sides.
Furthermore, US has sold advanced military hardware worth tens of billions of dollars to wealthy Arab petro-states who have regularly demanded Israel’s destruction in the past. If you want to make the sale and yet keep Israel as an ally, you have to provide some reciprocity.
Boost domestic defense industry
With new Obama regulations, 100% of US aid to Israel is spent on buying equipment from the US. This is distinctly in contrast to US military spending in Germany and Japan, for example. In those nations much of the military budget is spent locally, aiding the local economy much more than that of the US.
Control of the sale of Israeli weaponry to US rivals
Israeli high tech weaponry is valued throughout the world, and sought after by many nations, including some which are not exactly friendly to US interests. To exert this specific influence over Israel, which also affects Israeli GDP, some incentive must be provided by the US.
A recent Trump scandal in the last few months revealed a bit of the reliance of the US intelligence community on the Mossad. Trump revealed to Russia some details of a Mossad operation whereby Israeli agents penetrated Islamic State and discovered their plan to plant bombs in laptop computers taken onboard commercial aircraft bound for the US.
It is clear that the US relies on Mossad for access to crucial information, and this has been the case for decades. George Keagan, former head of U.S. Air Force Intelligence, said that “Israel is worth five CIAs.”
Application to a recent news item: when an Israeli F16 was shot down by a barrage of Syrian anti-aircraft missiles, the details of that confrontation is of huge importance to the US military. The US can expect to get extensive details that will help plan future potential interactions with Russian developed systems.
Joint military hardware development
Israel has a unique position in its cooperation with the US on development of military hardware. Many projects, such as the Arrow missile, are developed together to the advantage and cost savings of both.
Furthermore, Israel is a significant test bed for US military hardware. It was mostly Israeli-flown but US-built F-15 fighter jets that accrued the F-15’s enviable record.
“The first kill by an F-15 was scored by Israeli Air Force ace Moshe Melnik in 1979.…F-15As reportedly downed 13 Syrian MiG-21s and two Syrian MiG-25s. Israeli F-15As and Bs participated as escorts in Operation Opera, an air strike on an Iraqi nuclear reactor. In the 1982 Lebanon War, Israeli F-15s were credited with 41 Syrian aircraft destroyed (23 MiG-21s and 17 MiG-23s, and one Aérospatiale SA.342L Gazelle helicopter). During Operation Mole Cricket 19, Israeli F-15s and F-16s together shot down 82 Syrian fighter aircraft (MiG-21s, MiG-23s, and MiG-23Ms) with no losses.
Furthermore, much information about the latest Soviet technologies were received during Israel’s many wars to defend its existence.
Israel is the only truly reliable location in the region for the storage of US military hardware if US needed to get that material to a nearby theatre of operation quickly.
Defending Shipping Lanes
Arguably one of the most important roles for the sole global superpower is to maintain the safety of the world’s shipping lanes. Much of what can be said in praise of Pax Romana and Pax Britannia was their defense of trade routes, and the increase in global wealth because of that. In this regard, Israel is a great help to the US, considering its location near to the Horn of Africa and one of the most notorious shipping bottlenecks accessed by Somali pirates.
Omnipotent AIPAC lobbyists?
In spite of all of this, Israel haters love to single out AIPAC as having immense influence in Washington. Even though it is clear that AIPAC is hardly the most powerful lobby for a foreign nation in Washington, we could also look to the success of AIPAC in lobbying congress to vote against Obama’s Iran deal. AIPAC failed completely. Omnipotent? Perhaps not.
Here is a list of the funding of foreign lobbyists:
“In 2010, foreign governments spent approximately $460 million on lobbying Congress and the U.S. Government. Between 2015–2017, the Saudi Arabia paid $18 million to 145 registered lobbyists to influence the U.S. government.”
Where is the outrage about South Korea and Japan, who spend far more than Israel in lobbying the US government?
But even foreign nations pale in comparison to the top lobbyist groups: