Cutting Israel Aid: The One Way the Next President Could Balance the Budget

In a time of financial crisis in the United States, Democrats and Republicans alike are looking for ways to raise more revenue while cutting spending. Mitt Romney has proposed everything from cutting PBS ($300 million in government funding) to slashing Planned Parenthood ($360 million annually). While our government definitely needs to cut costs in order to get us back on fiscal-track, these cuts are drops in the bucket of our enormous annual budget.

Yet, we spend more than $3 billion on an allied nation that doesn’t need our support. Israel has a fully functional government, a self-sufficient economy, and is the military powerhouse of the Middle-East. That said, according to JournalistResource.org, “Israel is currently the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign aid since World War II.” In 2012, it was the top recipient of foreign aid from the United States, beating out Afghanistan by $700,000,000. This trend is set to continue in 2013. In 2010, Israel was number three on this list, but aid has been significantly cut to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq while aid to Israel has continued to rise. Per capita, Israel receives the most U.S. aid per citizen. To date, the United States has provided $115 billion in assistance to this small country and the 2013 budget request “includes $3.1 billion in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) for Israel” as well as $99.8 million in joint U.S.-Israeli missile defense programs.

Why does Israel receive these funds? Israel collects taxes, holds elections, and is the dominant military power in the region. They are an international tourist destination and are leading manufacturers in technology, agricultural goods, and weapons. Israel is the only country on the list that would not be considered a “developing nation” by most standards. Even if we were to look at this issue from an exclusively fiscal perspective, the facts stand that Israel is a fully functional capitalist state that is more than able to support as well as defend itself. So why do American taxpayers continue to send billions of dollars each year to them? Why is the U.S. giving Israel “$15 million for refugee resettlement” that will pay for continued expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank that have been deemed dangerous, inappropriate, and generally subversive to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process?

The reason is because no American politician will take a stand and tell them “No.” A major political candidate simply will not get elected if he or she does not unconditionally support the current U.S.-Israeli relationship and vow to defend Israel should it come under attack. This is in part because political candidates depend on the money donated to their campaigns by the likes of AIPAC and the assorted pro-Israel Political Action Committees. All told, this support can amount to over $10.9 million in a single election cycle. This doesn’t even include the private donations for adamantly pro-Israel candidates that come from individual families. That is big money for big campaigns, all of which supports a very small state that is more than capable of supporting itself.

Financially supporting Israel with American tax dollars is no longer the fiscally responsible thing to do. There are many arguments to be made for the moral reasons we should no longer support the Israeli’s military efforts, but the argument I make is a purely fiscal one. What if the $4 billion we send annually to support Israeli military efforts were used instead on the education of our children or the rebuilding of our national infrastructure. Education, roads, bridges, and energy are all things that both sides can agree need constant support. Image what $4 billion dollars could do. Imagine how many jobs it could create. Israel is still our ally and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. However, there is no reason why we should continue to send the Israelis money that they no longer need. 

This will only happen if the American people and the politicians who represent us in Congress put their collective feet down and say “NO! We have had enough.” That time is now.