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February 15, 2017

Israel and U.S. Military Aid

One common narrative in media reports about Israel is that Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. military aid. The Brookings Institution’s Shibley Telhami, for example, made the claim in Newsweek in September (“Is America Giving Too Much Aid to Israel? Key Poll Findings,�? September 16, 2016). That same month – the month that the most recent U.S. aid package to Israel was finalized – CNN wrote “the US has made Israel its largest recipient of military assistance for decades…�? and the New York Times called Israel “already the largest recipient of American aid...�?
(“Largest-ever US military aid package to go to Israel,�? and “U.S. Finalizes Deal to Give Israel $38 Billion in Military Aid,�? both September 13, 2016).

In the past, CAMERA has been one of the few to question this conventional wisdom. In 2006, CAMERA’s Alex Safian wrote that the costs of U.S. military personnel stationed in Europe and Asia “are gigantic costs that truly dwarf what we spend on aid to Israel.�? He noted at the time that Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, in their paper that year lambasting “The Israel Lobby,�? ignored the tremendous financial cost of U.S. troops abroad.

Now, the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies has reexamined this claim. Professor Hillel Frisch has written:

The response to the charge [that, at $3.1B per year, Israel is the largest recipient of US military aid] is simple: Israel is not even a major beneficiary of American military aid. The numerical figure reflects official direct US military aid, but is almost meaningless compared to the real costs and benefits of US military aid – which include, above all, American boots on the ground in the host states.

There are 150,500 American troops stationed in seventy countries around the globe. This costs the American taxpayer an annual $US85-100 billion, according to David Vine, a professor at American University and author of a book on the subject. In other words, 800-1,000 American soldiers stationed abroad represent US$565-665 million of aid to the country in which they are located.

Once the real costs are calculated, the largest aid recipient is revealed to be Japan, where 48,828 US military personnel are stationed. This translates into a US military aid package of over US$27 billion (calculated according to Vine’s lower estimation). Germany, with 37,704 US troops on its soil, receives aid equivalent to around US$21 billion; South Korea, with 27,553 US troops, receives over US$15 billion; and Italy receives at least US$6 billion.

The post-World War II agreement between the U.S. and Japan, pursuant to which the U.S. stations troops there, includes a “U.S. pledge to defend Japan in the event of an attack.�? It wasn’t until 2015 that the agreement was updated to permit Japan to come to the aid of the U.S. or other allies. It’s clear, therefore, that Japan directly benefits from U.S. troops stationed in its country, at U.S. taxpayer expense.

As Professor Frisch explained, the in-kind military aid given to many nations around the world, including Kuwait, Qatar, and the Baltic states, puts U.S. service members on the line. In contrast, the cash aid given to Israel puts no U.S. service members in danger.

Posted by kabe at February 15, 2017 10:53 AM


Thanks for getting this story right, people were so locked into the Middle East they didn't even give Iraq and Afghanistan priority at the height of our military efforts in those countries.

Posted by: jeb at February 16, 2017 03:33 PM

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