Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The Cost of Israel to U.S. Taxpayers: Israel Costs U.S. Annually More Than Bosnia Reconstruction Will Cost Entire World

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The Cost of Israel to U.S. Taxpayers: Israel Costs U.S. Annually More Than Bosnia Reconstruction Will Cost Entire World

Article excerpt

The Cost of Israel to U.S. Taxpayers: Israel Costs U.S. Annually More Than Bosnia Reconstruction Will Cost Entire World

By Richard H. Curtiss

Foreign ministers and foreign aid officials representing 52 countries met in London Dec. 9 to consider what the Washington Post called "the gargantuan task...of planning the reconstruction of Bosnia, on...a three-to-five-year mission of incalculable costs, complexities and uncertainties." Total cost was estimated at $6 billion. The World Bank and other international financial institutions are expected to pick up $3 billion of this and the European Union suggests that European countries pay $2 billion and the United States pay the remaining $1 billion.

Funding for the giant task, one of the most important multinational economic efforts in Europe since the end of the Marshall Plan, probably will continue to preoccupy the finance ministers of the Western world for some time to come. Yet the total bill for all participants will amount to less than the annual $6.321 billion the U.S. government provides in grants and loan guarantees to Israel (see box on this page), a country with a population of, at most, 5.5 million people who have not been engaged in a major war since Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon almost 14 years ago.

What in the world do the Israelis do with all that money? They receive more aid every two years than the total of $11 billion the U.S. spent over a period of many years on the entire Marshall Plan to rehabilitate the economies of both the European and the Asian countries devastated in World War II.

The grants and loan guarantees to Israel are on such a vast scale that it is almost obscene to discuss U.S. government expenditures and budget cuts in any other field while keeping aid to Israel "off the table." But both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have agreed to do exactly that.

In fact, the scope of aid to Israel can only be compared to some historic relief programs after great natural disasters. For example, with 19 tropical storms and hurricanes, 1995 was the second busiest Atlantic hurricane season in history. The total bill for insured property damage attributed to these 1995 storms in the United States, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico combined was $3.35 billion. This means the cost of Israel to U.S. taxpayers in 1995 was almost twice the cost of damages from the second worst hurricane season on record to owners of homes and businesses from Maine to Florida and including U.S. Caribbean territories.

A closer parallel is the similarity in aid to Israel and the cost of the devastating Jan. 17, 1994 earthquake centered in the Los Angeles suburb of Northridge, which did an estimated $7 billion in damage throughout heavily populated Los Angeles county and adjacent areas. The difference is that instead of being just a one-time disaster, the recurring annual bill to U.S. taxpayers for grants and loan guarantees to Israel has remained at this total ever since fiscal year 1993, and it appears that it will remain at this or an even higher level for 1996.

The need for congressional support for the deployment of U.S. ground troops to Bosnia in accordance with the Dayton agreement put the administration of President Bill Clinton into a dilemma. Congress had given him a $243 billion defense bill for 1996. That was $7 billion more than he had requested and he had planned to veto the bill and then try to negotiate a deal with Republicans to shift some of the money to housing, the environment, education and other top-priority Democratic programs he feels will be not be adequately funded under the Republican "Contract With America" budget. …

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