Much has been made in the U.S. media of the Syrian- and Iranian-origin weaponry used by Hezbollah in the escalating violence in Israel and Lebanon. There has been no parallel discussion of the origin of Israel’s weaponry, the vast bulk of which is from the United States.
The United States is the primary source of Israel’s far superior arsenal. For more than 30 years, Israel had been the largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance and since 1985 Jerusalem has received about $3 billion in military and economic aid each year from Washington. U.S. aid accounts for more than 20% of Israel’s total defense budget.
Over the past decade, the United States has transferred more than $17 billion in military aid to this country of just under 7 million people.
Israel is one of the United States’ largest arms importers. Between 1996 and 2005 (the last year for which full data is available), Israel took delivery of $10.19 billion in U.S. weaponry and military equipment, including more than $8.58 billion through the Foreign Military Sales program, and another $1.61 billion in Direct Commercial Sales
During the Bush administration, from 2001 to 2005, Israel received $10.5 billion in Foreign Military Financing—the Pentagon’s biggest military aid program—and $6.3 billion in U.S. arms deliveries. The aid figure is larger than the arms transfer figure because it includes financing for major arms agreements for which the equipment has yet to be fully delivered. The most prominent of these deals is a $4.5 billion sale of 102 Lockheed Martin F-16s to Israel.
Given the billions of dollars of aid it provides to Israel every year and the central role of U.S.-supplied weaponry in the Israeli arsenal, the United States has considerable leverage that it could use to promote a cease fire in the current conflict between Israel and Hezbollah before more Israeli and Lebanese civilians are killed and displaced. President Bush needs to go beyond vague calls for “restraint” to demands for a cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah, bringing in other key actors in the region, including Iran and Syria.
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TABLE I: U.S. WEAPONS SALES DELIVERIES TO ISRAEL
Source: “Facts Book: Department of Defense, Security Assistance Agency,” September 30, 2005.
Key: FMS, Foreign Military Sales; DCS, Direct Commercial Sales. The Facts Books does not make future projections and thus data for 2006 and 2007 is not yet available.
TABLE II: MILITARY AID TO ISRAEL
Source: “Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations,” Fiscal Years 2001-2007.
Key: FMF, Foreign Military Financing (direct military aid); ESF, Economic Support Fund (open-ended monetary assistance that can be used to offset military spending and arms purchases; Supplementals are special one-time grants meant as a complement to already allocated aid; NADR-ATA, Nonproliferation, Anti-Terrorism, Demining, & Related Programs.
William D. Hartung is author of “Tangled Web 2005: A Profile of the Missile Defense and Space Weapons Lobbies” and a senior research fellow at the New School, where Frida Berrigan is a senior research associate. Both are Foreign Policy In Focus scholars.