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How does the U.S. support Israel?

U.S. support for Israel emerges in several ways: financial, military and diplomatic. While most Americans believe that U.S. foreign aid goes to the poorest people in the poorest countries, Israel (wealthier than a number of European Union member countries) receives 25 percent of the entire U.S. foreign aid budget. Since 1976 Israel has been the highest recipient of U.S. foreign aid in the world. The congressional aid comes to about $1.8 billion a year in military aid and $1.2 billion in economic aid, plus another $1 billion or so in miscellaneous grants, mostly in military supplies, from various U.S. agencies. Tax-exempt contributions destined to Israel bring up the total to over $5 billion annually.

Israel is the only country allowed to spend part of its military aid funds (25 percent) on its own domestic arms industry; all other recipients of U.S. military aid are required to use it to purchase U.S.-manufactured weapons. This has helped Israel consolidate its own arms exporting sector, some parts of which actually compete for export customers with U.S. arms manufacturers. More directly, Israel has access to the most advanced weapons systems in the U.S. arsenal, for purchase with U.S. taxpayer assistance. The U.S. defends Israel's refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and has endorsed the principle of "strategic ambiguity" in which Israel refuses to officially acknowledge its widely known and documented nuclear capacity, and its arsenal of over 200 high-density nuclear bombs in the Dimona nuclear facility remains un-inspected.

During the Cold War the U.S. relied on Israel's military power as an extension of its own, with Israeli arms sales, military training and backing of pro-U.S. governments and pro-U.S. anti-government guerrillas in countries from Mozambique and Angola to El Salvador, Chile and Nicaragua. That "cat's paw" relationship consolidated the U.S.-Israeli military ties that continue today. Most of the weapons Israel uses in the occupied territories, including Apache helicopter gunships, F-16 fighter bombers, wire-guided missiles, armored Caterpillar bulldozers used to demolish Palestinian houses, and others are all made in the U.S., and purchased from U.S. manufacturers with U.S. military aid funds. Some of the weapons, such as the Merkava tanks, are joint products of Israel's domestic arms industry and U.S. manufacturing technology.

Diplomatically, the U.S. alone protects Israel in the United Nations and other international arenas from being held accountable for its violations of international law. After 1967, U.S. patterns of opposing UN resolutions critical of Israel become more pronounced. Most of the U.S. vetoes cast in the Security Council in the 1980s and 90s, and almost all of those cast since the end of the Cold War, have been to protect Israel.