- Conferences and Seminars
U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel
For decades, the United States and Israel have maintained strong bilateral relations based on a number of factors, including robust domestic U.S. support for Israel and its security; shared strategic goals in the Middle East; a mutual commitment to democratic values; and historical ties dating from U.S. support for the creation of Israel in 1948. U.S. foreign aid has been a major component in cementing and reinforcing these ties. Although successive Administrations have disapproved of some Israeli policies, including settlement construction in the West Bank and prior to Israel’s 2005 disengagement—the Gaza Strip, U.S. officials and many lawmakers have long considered Israel to be a reliable partner in the region, and U.S. aid packages for Israel have reflected this belief. Opponents of U.S. aid to Israel argue that U.S. assistance to Israel indirectly causes suffering to Palestinians by supporting Israeli arms purchases and by blunting international pressure on Israel to reach a solution to the Palestinian conflict.
Though aid to Israel has both supporters and detractors, overall U.S. public support for Israel remains strong. According to a February 2011 Gallup poll that measured Americans' sympathies toward the disputants in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a near record-high 63% said their sympathies lie more with the Israelis. There is less specific public polling data on support for aid to Israel. Overall, American public support for all foreign aid programs is declining. According to a January 2011 Gallup poll, 59% of Americans favored cutting foreign aid. According to a February 2011 poll conducted by the Israel Project, a non-profit educational organization that aims to portray a positive view of Israel, when asked if the United States should continue foreign aid to Israel used for buying U.S. military equipment, 47% of respondents responded affirmatively and 40% of respondents said that the United States should reduce aid to Israel.
The historic political changes occurring in the Arab world and the ongoing security challenges posed by Iran and its allies may affect the U.S.-Israeli aid relationship in varying ways. Some U.S. leaders perceive increasing threats to Israel, particularly from Iran and its Lebanese Shiite ally Hezbollah, and therefore may advocate for additional funding for programs such as short and long range missile defense. Others, who may also strongly support Israel’s security, also may see an opportunity for Israel to respond to empowered public opinion in neighboring Arab countries like Egypt through diplomatic means, especially by reenergizing peace initiatives with the Palestinians, and therefore may seek aid packages that offer incentives for this behavior.
The wave of continued Arab unrest may even cause Israel to advocate for more global financial support for its Arab neighbors. Fear of unrest in neighboring Jordan, for example, could drive Israel to seek additional U.S. foreign assistance in support of the neighboring Arab monarchy.
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U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel (38 page, 528 KB )
Source: Congressional Research Service, 12 March 2012