How ending American foreign aid to Israel would strengthen Israel

From the beginning of America’s relationship with Israel, the U.S. has tried to tell the Jewish state what it can and cannot do.

The United States has ordered Israel to stop the construction of new housing settlements, condemned Israel for acting in self-defense, and called for Israel to cede authority over the land within its borders, including the holy city of Jerusalem. In the past, if Israel did not yield to America’s demands, the US has threatened to cut off foreign assistance.

In 1981, when confronted by an American ambassador who threatened to end foreign aid unless Israel accepted America’s conditions, former Israeli Prime Minister Begin replied, “What kind of expression is this – ‘punishing Israel’? Are we a vassal state of yours? Are we a banana republic? Are we youths of fourteen who, if they don’t behave properly, are slapped across the fingers?”

Begin was right: Israel is not America’s child and Israel does not need to be punished if it does not comply with America’s wishes. Israel is a sovereign country capable of taking care of its own affairs without interference from the United States.

Israel is America’s greatest ally in the Middle East. Today, the best way to strengthen that relationship would be to end US foreign aid to Israel.

When Israel accepts foreign aid from America, Israel agrees to terms that limit its power to behave as an independent nation. Without American foreign aid, however, Israel would be free to act as it wishes.

Israel would no longer need to seek the US’s permission or blessing regarding decisions about its territory, its self-defense, and its conduct. This would also enable Israel to be more self-reliant, something incredibly important when confronting international threats.

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Not only does American foreign aid stunt Israel’s ability to act as a sovereign nation, but it stifles Israel’s military. As is the case with any subsidy, the money tends to be wasted on inefficient projects and ineffective products. A stipulation in many of the aid agreements between the two countries requires that Israel must purchase its weapons from the United States, forcing Israel to purchase equipment which is often of a lower quality and a higher price than what is available elsewhere.

If Israel were free to make its own purchases without being coerced into buying American goods, this would help strengthen its national defense.

America’s current overall system of foreign aid also frequently empowers Israel’s enemies. For instance, in many trade agreements, America ties its contributions to Israel to its contributions to countries that are hostile towards Israel. For every tank that is given to Israel’s enemies by the American government, Israel must then construct another tank of its own in order to secure its defense.

This is counterproductive, to say the least.

Support for ending American aid is shared by a growing number of Israelis, including various politicians. Moshe Feiglin, Knesset member and head of the Manhigut Yehudit faction of the Likud Party, explicitly calls for an end to foreign aid on his faction’s website.

Naftali Bennett, Israel’s Minister of the Economy, agrees, saying, “Today, U.S. military aid is roughly 1 percent of Israel’s economy. I think, generally, we need to free ourselves from it.”

Even Prime Minister Netanyahu has called for ending America’s foreign aid to Israel in a speech he gave to Congress:

“[…] I believe there can be no greater tribute to America’s long-standing economic aid to Israel than for us to be able to say: We are going to achieve economic independence. We are going to do it. In the next four years, we will begin the long-term process of gradually reducing the level of your generous economic assistance to Israel. I am convinced that our economic policies will lay the foundation for total self-reliance and great economic strength.”

With high-ranking Israeli politicians talking about the idea of ending foreign aid to Israel, it is a serious political consideration.

On the American side, Senator Rand Paul visited Israel last year and proposed the idea of ending foreign aid to a receptive free market think-tank. Paul touched on some the same points made in this column including the fact that America cannot remain a strong ally for Israel if it country does not have its own financial house in order.

Building a stronger America will mean controlling exorbitant government spending. A stronger Israel will mean ending American foreign aid.


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