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What military support does the US provide Israel?

April 8, 2024 at 12:39 pm

A US Air Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter [USAF / Public Domain]

The humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza has prompted calls for Washington to put conditions on the billions of dollars in military funding and other assistance it provides to Israel, which has received more US foreign aid since World War Two than any other country.

The following are details of US support for Israel as it carried out what the UN’s special rapporteur to the occupied territories has said is a genocide in Gaza.

Mandated by law

In 2016, the US and Israeli governments signed a third ten-year Memorandum of Understanding, covering the period from 1 October 2018 to 30 September 2028. The MOU provides a total of $38 billion in military aid over the ten years, $33 billion in grants to buy military equipment and $5 billion for missile defence systems.

Advanced weapons

Israel is the first international operator of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, considered the most technologically advanced fighter jet ever made. It is in the process of buying 75 F-35s and – as of last year – had taken delivery of 36, paying for them with US assistance.

The United States has also helped Israel develop and arm its Iron Dome short-range rocket defence system, developed after its 2006 war on Lebanon. The United States has repeatedly sent Israel hundreds of millions of dollars to help replenish its interceptor missiles.

Washington has also helped fund the development of Israel’s “David’s Sling” system, designed to shoot down rockets fired from 100-200 kilometres to (62-124 miles) away.

Will more arms be sent?

Last year, President Joe Biden asked Congress to approve a $95 billion supplemental spending bill that included $14 billion for Israel, in addition to $60 billion for Ukraine, support for Taiwan and billions in humanitarian assistance.

READ: Leading Democrat Nancy Pelosi joins calls to halt US arms transfers to Israel

That package passed the Senate with 70 per cent support in February but has been blocked in the House, whose Republican leaders will not call it up for a vote, largely because of their objection to further funding for Ukraine. It also faces resistance from a handful of left-leaning Democrats who object to sending more money to Israel while it pursues a military campaign that has killed more than 33,000 Palestinian civilians in Gaza, according to Palestinian health officials.

Other support

The United States has long used its veto power at the UN Security Council to block resolutions seen as critical of Israel. Earlier in the six-month-long war in Gaza, it vetoed measures that included calls for an immediate ceasefire.

To pass in the Security Council, a resolution needs at least nine votes in favour and no veto by the US, France, Britain, Russia or China.

Late last month, Washington dropped its traditional protection of Israel by abstaining from a vote on a resolution demanding a ceasefire, instead of casting a veto, although it described the brief text as “non-binding”.

Washington has taken Israel’s side elsewhere. Former Republican President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the world’s most important human rights body, the UN Human Rights Council, in protest of its criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

Also under Trump, it left the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), partly because of what his administration called a bias against Israel.

Trump also reversed decades of US policy in 2017 by recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital. Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. It has been occupied by Israel since 1967.

And in March the same year, Trump recognised Israel’s 1981 annexation of the Golan Heights in a boost for Netanyahu that prompted a sharp response from Syria, whose land it is under international law.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.