U.S. Security Assistance to Israel. (Self-Determination Series)

By Yackley, Joseph; Zunes, Stephen | Foreign Policy in Focus, May 6, 2002 | Go to article overview

U.S. Security Assistance to Israel. (Self-Determination Series)


Yackley, Joseph, Zunes, Stephen, Foreign Policy in Focus


Key Points

* United States security assistance to Israel has not supported Israel's legitimate security needs against terrorism and related threats but has instead enabled Israel to pursue aggressive policies that threaten its long-term security interests.

* The widespread use of U.S. weapons by Israeli occupation forces against civilian targets is a violation of international human rights standards and U.S. law.

* U.S. military aid to Israel has increased as conventional military threats from its Arab neighbors have declined and has failed to address Israel's broader security interests.

The violence of the past year and a half between Israelis and Palestinians has left more than 2,000 people dead, torpedoed the peace process, and turned the streets of the West Bank and Gaza Strip into battlefields. As the U.S. reconsiders its role in promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace, the prospects for a final settlement that recognizes the security needs of Israel and the legitimate political rights at Palestinians seem worse than ever. The Bush administration has abandoned the ambitious approach of its predecessor by emphasizing "assistance" over "insistence." Unfortunately, rather than focusing on the issues that have derailed the peace process, American assistance is emerging as a disjointed policy that urges a peaceful resolution to the conflict while boosting military aid to Israel. This military aid has been used in the widespread killings of civilians, destroyed large sections of the infrastructure in Palestinian society, and hardened Arab attitudes toward Israel.

The increases in military aid grow out of a central pillar of U.S. policy in the Middle East: strengthening America's "strategic cooperation" with Israel. This cooperation currently centers on two categories of U.S. military-related assistance to Israel, Economic Support Funds (ESF) and Foreign Military Financing (FMF). The larger of these two, FMF, is intended to help Israel finance its acquisition of U.S. military equipment, services, and training. FMF is scheduled to increase by $60 million each year, for a total of $2.04 billion in FY2002, as part of an ongoing plan to phase out ESF support by 2008. Previous discussions about Israel's security needs following peace agreements with Syria and the Palestinians and a withdrawal from the Golan Heights, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip foresee an additional $35 billion of U.S. military assistance, raising the potential total to more than $7 billion per year over the next seven years. This is roughly the same amount currently spent by all of the former Soviet republics combined. Such an enormous increase is based on the confusing assumption that peace agreements with once-hostile neighbors somehow make Israel less secure and require a greatly expanded Israeli military.

Already the strongest military power in the region and the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid, Israel does not need additional military assistance. It has one of the most sophisticated, well-equipped, and best-trained armies in the world, and its armed forces are growing faster than those of its neighbors, whose military expenditures decreased during the 1990s. …

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