American taxpayers have paid the equivalent of $234 billion at today's values in aid to Israel since 1948. The figures are revealed in a report by Israeli economic magazine The Marker this week and show the actual amount of $113 billion adjusted to take inflation into account. The pro-Israel Lobby in the US is pushing hard for aid to the country to be maintained despite the economic hardships facing the American people.
US aid accounts for about 4 per cent of Israel's GDP, claims the Haaretz-owned magazine. An additional $19 billion of financial guarantees have also been forthcoming from the US to help Israel to get loans from around the world.
Such aid to Israel from the US dates back to 1949-1958, when it was used mainly to buy food and to provide for Jewish immigrants to settle in the the state built in occupied Palestine. In 1959 the scope of US aid was expanded to military support. This grew steadily, with a boost in the seventies in the wake of the October 1973 War. Since the Camp David peace agreement with Egypt in 1978, Israel has received around $3 billion a year from the US, mainly for military purposes with just $800m for economic support.
In 1998, Israel demanded a reduction of US economic aid, asking instead for more military backing. That was a time of economic recovery in the state in the wake of the Oslo Accords signed with the Palestinians and the opening of some Israeli representative offices in a number of Arab and Islamic countries.
When the initial agreement for $3 billion a year came to an end, in 2008, George W Bush agreed an extension of ten years. For the first time, some of the military aid began to be paid in cash instead of military hardware. This has seen up to $700m per annum being transferred to the Israeli Ministry of Defence. Since then, not only has the total sometimes been more than originally agreed but the Obama administration has also provided additional support for specific projects, such as the "defensive" Iron Dome missile system.
It is clear from the report that the United States has continued over the years to provide special support to absorb Jewish immigrants into Palestine, especially in the nineties. The report also explains that this support continued to a lesser extent in the past decade, up to and including last year.
The Marker claims that despite the impression that US aid to Israel is a result of pressure for a lobby in Washington, it is in fact a reflection of US-Israel joint strategic interests. This is difficult to believe given the high-profile public activities of pro-Israel Lobby groups such as AIPAC; we can only imagine what goes on behind closed doors.
Israel receives more US aid than any other country in the world, in complete disproportion to its size and population and economic need. It has a thriving economy which hasn't really been affected by the financial crisis engulfing Europe and America, so why does it still demand, and get, so much aid from successive US governments?