U.S. Aid to Israel - Introduction

Top five things you should know about U.S. military aid to Israel

1. Harm to Palestinian Civilians

A large part of U.S. military aid to Israel goes to purchase tanks, helicopter gunships, machine guns, and bullets that are used against Palestinian civilians. Our tax dollars have been used to destroy homes; uproot trees and crops; seize land from its lawful owners; close all access to food, medicine, and the outside world for small towns in the West Bank and Gaza; staff checkpoints that cut off ambulances and other civilian traffic; and carry out assassinations that kill children in addition to summarily executing political leaders. When Palestinian doctors remove bullets from the bodies of Palestinian children, the bullets are typically stamped 'Made in the U.S.A.'

Israel has used its U.S.-financed arsenal against unarmed Palestinian civilians, including children. Amnesty International reports that in 2002 alone, At least 1,000 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli army, most of them unlawfully. They included some 150 children and at least 35 individuals killed in targeted assassinations. Certain abuses committed by the Israeli army constituted war crimes. [including] unlawful killings, obstruction of medical assistance and targeting of medical personnel, extensive and wanton destruction of property, torture and cruel and inhuman treatment, unlawful confinement and the use of "`human shields."

The IDF continued to demolish houses and destroy agricultural land and industrial installations throughout the Gaza Strip. The IDF routinely used F-16 fighter jets, helicopter gunships, and tanks to bomb and shell Palestinian residential areas in response to gunfire or mortar attacks by Palestinians or in reprisal for suicide bombings and other attacks.

Go to Amnesty International for more reports on the Occupied Territories and Israel.

2. Harm to Israelis

In addition to the devastation it visits on Palestinians, the occupation threatens the democratic values Israel seeks to uphold. Massive military aid promotes militarism, which has led to a reliance on military, rather than diplomatic means to work for a solution to this ongoing conflict. More and more Israelis question the moral decay that accompanies the criminal actions of the military and the dehumanization of the Palestinian people. A peace rally at the height of Israel's reoccupation of the main towns of the West Bank in April 2002 drew 15,000 protestors in Tel Aviv. Currently nearly 1,200 Israeli army reservists refuse to serve in the Occupied Territories because the occupation corrupts Israeli society and endangers, rather than enhances, the security of Israelis. Israeli activists support the suspension of U.S. military aid to Israel; in the words of feminist activist Rela Mazali, [T]he U.S. foots most of the bills run up by this siege and makes some of the most lethal weapons used to maintain it. We hope you will tell your government to stop arming the conflict.

3. Harm to the U.S. and its Citizens

Israel is required to use 75% of its military aid from the U.S. to buy arms and equipment such as Caterpillar bulldozers made in the U.S. It funnels this money to more than 1,000 U.S. arms suppliers, which in turn lobby for U.S. policies that benefit them at the expense of peace in the Middle East. As a result, the diversion of our tax dollars not only reduces funding for education and social programs but militarizes our public policy overall. U.S. military aid to Israel sets the U.S. in opposition to many Arab and European nations who recognize the horrors of the occupation. This makes U.S. citizens less safe because we are more hated. And the massive flow of arms into Israel is made even more dangerous by arms sales of lesser quality to other Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. While all this business fills the coffers of arms merchants, it makes the Middle East ever more unstable. Furthermore, when our government arms proponents of massive human rights abuses, we become complicit in their crimes and hated by their victims. U.S. support of Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands and its abuse of human rights undermines any moral authority to criticize human rights abuses in other countries. And it shreds the U.S. of any credibility in acting to promote peace in the region.

4. Violations of U.S. and International Law

U.S. law prohibits the president from furnishing military aid to any country which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights: Paragraph 22 U.S.C.  2304(a). The U.S. Department of State reported in March 2003 that, "Israel's overall human rights record in the occupied territories remained poor and worsened in several areas as it continued to commit serious human rights abuses.".Israeli security units used excessive force during Palestinian demonstrations, while on patrol, pursuing suspects, and enforcing checkpoints and curfews, which resulted in many deaths. Targeting civilians, as Israel has done, is a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention. The fact that Palestinian groups have done the same makes it no less criminal. For more information on these human rights violations visit www.btselem.org, andweb.amnesty.org/report2003/2md-index-eng.

5. Aid is Excessive and Disproportionate

More U.S. aid goes to Israel than any other country, even though Israel?s per capita income is as high as many European countries. In fiscal year 2003 Israel received a foreign military financing grant of $3.1 billion and a $600 million grant for economic security in addition to $11 billion in commercial loan guarantees. This total aid package of nearly $15 billion makes Israel by far the largest single recipient of U.S. aid. U.S. aid is a function of politics. According to a Time/CNN poll, released April 12, 2002, 60% of Americans favor cutting aid to Israel if Israel does not immediately withdraw its troops from Palestinian areas. Further, U.S. aid to other countries is often tied to various conditions, depending on what the U.S. wants the aid recipient to do. We are asking that aid to Israel be treated in the same manner.

Pouring arms into an area of the world already plagued by violence can only increase death and destruction and render the U.S. a questionable broker for peace at best. In these hard economic days, that money can be put to use in the U.S. or it could be used to build a stable Palestinian society, out of the devastation that exists there now. The Israeli economy has been in a downward spiral for years, and foreign investment has long been directly related to the level of violence in the region. Using military aid as a lever to end the occupation will be a boon to the security and hopes for the future for both Israelis and Palestinians.


Key Facts

  • Total direct aid to Israel, 1948-2003 
    $89.9 billion (uncorrected for inflation)
  • Since 1976 Israel has been the largest annual recipient of US aid. It is the largest cumulative recipient since World War II.
  • Direct U.S. aid for each Israeli citizen in 2001 (per capita annual income of Israel = $16,710) -- over $500 
  • Direct U.S. Aid for each Ethiopian citizen in 2001 (per capita annual income of Ethiopia = $100) -- about $.45
  • REGULAR US GRANT AID in FY 2003 
    $2.76 billion military aid grant 
    $2.1 billion economic support funds 
    $600 million refugee resettlement grant 
  • COMMERCIAL LOAN GUARANTEES IN FY 2003 
    $2 billion
  • BUSH ADMINISTRATION SUPPLEMENTAL REQUEST FOR FY 2003
    Military aid grant $1 billion
    Commercial loan guarantees $9 billion
    Arrow missile development $60 million
  • TOTAL AID FOR FY 2003 $14.82 billion
  • Percentage of U.S. foreign aid that goes to Israel -- 30% 
  • Israel's population as a percentage of world population -- .01%
  • Section 116 of the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) states, "No assistance may be provided under this part to the government of any country which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights." 22 U.S.C. 2304(a)
  • Section 4 of the Arms Export Control Act prohibits selling military equipment to countries that use them for non-self-defense purposes. 
  • The U.S. State Department determined in February 2001 that Israel has committed each of the acts that the law defines as "gross violations of internationally recognized human rights,  including torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charges and trial, causing the disappearance of persons by the abduction and clandestine detention of those persons, and other flagrant denials of the right to life, liberty, or the security of person." It described Israeli army use of live ammunition against Palestinians when soldiers were not in impending danger as "excessive use of force.

~ Jewish Voice for Peace

SOURCES: Clyde R. Mark, ?Israel: U.S. Foreign Assistance,  Congressional Research Service, updated April 1, 2003; Clyde R. Mark,  Middle East: U.S. Foreign Assistance, FY 2001, FY 2002, FY 2003 Congressional Research Service, March 28, 2002