The Jerusalem Post
Dear Democrats, Israel is still a vital US interest
The recent round of violence between Israel and Hamas has resurfaced the question of America’s relationship with Israel, particularly in the left wing of the Democratic Party. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted “[a] partheid states aren’t democracies.” Senator Bernie Sanders and others have spoken out about rethinking military aid given to Israel.
US foreign policy doesn’t always make sense to Americans and the use of extreme terminology sensationalizing and simplifying a complex conflict by leading Democrats confuses them even more. It’s very easy to get swept up in ideological issues – but the fact remains that foreign policy based on public sentiment would not protect Americans.
With that being said, one might question why Israel gets more US foreign aid than any other country in the region. The answer is simple: it benefits America. US aid to Israel comes in the form of memorandums of understanding (MOU), 10-year contracts that guarantee a certain amount of funds to use on military expenditure. The current MOU guarantees $38 billion and is more stringent than those signed in the past. According to a White House press release, the deal signed in 2016 doesn’t allow Israel to ask for more money unless it faces a security crisis, and more importantly – the deal phases out Israel’s ability to buy from its local defense industry, preferring
US military sales instead. This means that the current deal plays into American interests even more than before.
Why is Israel so important to America?
Israel plays a strategic role as a loyal ally in a volatile region, and one of the only allies in the region the US can actually trust. This is especially important as the US will inevitably shift its presence to the Indo-Pacific region and will need reliable allies to maintain its interests in the Middle East. Combating terror is a major concern for both countries, so it’s extremely beneficial to have an active, skilled military on the ground to gather and share intelligence, as well as carry out covert and overt missions. The US is a major target of terror organizations. Increasing the ability to combat terrorism is thus crucial for protecting Americans.
Furthermore, the alliance with Israel is one based on common norms and values. Israel is a young country with heavy security threats and a complicated demographic makeup. Nevertheless, Israelis still fight for democratic institutions, as seen in the recent election that ended Netanyahu’s 12-year rule. Many Israelis see themselves as belonging to the Western world. This means that Israel supports the US-led international order, which is important at a time when scholars posit a nearing expiration date for America’s control. According to the Institute for National Security
Studies (INSS), a think tank, US military aid covers about a fifth of Israel’s gross defense budget. In the case that Israel would need to look for financial assistance elsewhere, it’s likely it would turn to China, which already shows interest in the Israeli market. In other words, Israel, the regional power, would have to open the door for much heavier Chinese involvement in the region.
Some Americans object to helping Israel increase its military power because they think it’ll make peace less likely. However, one of the largest barriers holding Israel back from moving toward peace is the fear of becoming less secure. According to the US foreign assistance agency, increasing Israel’s level of security makes it more likely to negotiate a peace deal.
Lastly, the MOU is basically a way to ensure sales for the US military industry. By changing the criteria on how the aid can be used, the US is promoting its own economy and securing jobs for Americans. Moreover, $5 billion of the MOU are guaranteed for joint projects in missile defense technology, which extends America’s own technological capabilities.
Israel is not a perfect country, but no country is. Americans should continue to support Israel because it’s in their own interest to do so.