Michael C. Desch points out the audacity of Benjamin Netanyahu in his effort to try to commit the United States to fighting a preventive war on Israel’s behalf. The level of support the Jewish state already receives from the U.S. is unparalleled. One fifth of Israel’s defense spending is paid for by American taxpayers.
The United States has provided Israel with more than $160 billion in bilateral aid since 1948, most of it for military purposes. About 60 percent of all U.S. aid to foreign militaries now goes to Israel, constituting around 20 percent of the Jewish state’s annual military spending, according to the Congressional Research Service. Washington requires other recipients of its military aid to spend the money in the United States, but allows Israel to use a significant part of its aid allotment to buy weapons from its own defense industry rather than from U.S. suppliers.
The United States also takes steps to ensure Israel’s ready access to American arms. The United States prepositioned ammunition and equipment in Israel in the 1980s as part of its war reserve stocks for allies program, and now regularly allows the Israel Defense Forces to replenish their supplies from them, as they did after the 2006 conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. Israel also benefits more than any other country from the U.S. Excess Defense Articles program, a veritable military flea market open to “major non-NATO allies” of the United States, a designation that Israel obtained in 2001.
But perhaps it is in the area of missile defense that the “special relationship” is most clearly revealed. The United States has been a major financial backer of Israel’s short-range Iron Dome anti-missile system and has cooperated with Israel to develop longer-range systems, such as David’s Sling and the Arrow series of interceptors. And the U.S. Department of Defense budget request for next year includes nearly $1 billion for a new joint U.S.-Israeli missile defense project.
Moreover, the Congressional Research Service reports that the United States has deployed to Israel a highly capable U.S.-manned X-band radar system, known as the AN/TPY-2, that not only increases the range at which Israel can detect incoming missiles but also connects it to the United States’ own global system for detecting ballistic missiles. Israel’s ballistic missile defense network is also bolstered by the array of ground-based and ship-based ballistic missile detection and defense systems that the United States is deploying in the Persian Gulf.
On top of this largesse, in 2007, the George W. Bush administration made a ten-year commitment to provide $30 billion in military aid to Israel, and the Obama administration has kept that promise. Not to be outdone, the U.S. Congress recently passed legislation offering Israel new access to U.S. weapons and matériel, encouraging expanded Israeli cooperation with NATO, and promising to help preserve Israel’s “qualitative military edge” in the region.
In short, not only does the United States have Israel’s back — it has its front, top, and bottom, too.