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Why the U.S. helps pay for Israel's military

Why the U.S. helps pay for Israel's military

Update: 2024-06-052
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Digest

The United States provides substantial military aid to Israel, a practice that has been in place for decades and is now facing scrutiny due to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war and the growing Palestinian death toll. This episode delves into the history of US aid to Israel, exploring the geopolitical, moral, and cultural factors that have shaped this relationship. The episode highlights the Cold War's influence, the moral dimension stemming from the Holocaust, and the strong evangelical Christian support for Israel. It also examines the shift from a balance of power approach to a policy of ensuring Israel's "qualitative military edge" over its neighbors. The episode discusses the rationale behind this policy, including Israel's role as a strategic partner against adversaries like Iran, and the US's efforts to maintain Israel's military advantage even when selling weapons to other countries in the region. The episode concludes by exploring the debate over whether the US should continue providing military aid to Israel, with some policymakers arguing for its continuation based on strategic, moral, and cultural reasons, while others, like Stephen Cook, believe it is no longer necessary and advocate for a gradual phasing out of aid over a decade. Cook argues that Israel, with its advanced industrial economy and military capabilities, can afford to provide for its own defense. The episode also touches upon the constraints on how Israel is supposed to use the weapons it buys with US aid, emphasizing the ambiguity surrounding the term "defensive purposes" and the inherent difficulty in controlling the use of weapons once they are delivered.

Outlines

00:00:00
Introduction

This Chapter introduces the topic of US military aid to Israel, highlighting the significant amount of money allocated annually and the growing scrutiny surrounding this arrangement in the context of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war and the rising Palestinian death toll.

00:00:15
US Military Aid to Israel: A Historical Perspective

This Chapter delves into the history of US aid to Israel, tracing its origins back to Israel's declaration of independence in 1948. It explores the initial US policy of neutrality and its shift towards a closer relationship with Israel, driven by factors such as the Cold War, the moral dimension stemming from the Holocaust, and the strong evangelical Christian support for Israel. The chapter highlights the turning point in 1973, when the US decisively moved away from seeking a balance of power in the Middle East to a policy of ensuring Israel's "qualitative military edge" over its neighbors.

00:08:17
The Debate Over Continued Military Aid

This Chapter examines the ongoing debate over whether the US should continue providing military aid to Israel. It presents arguments from both sides, with some policymakers advocating for its continuation based on strategic, moral, and cultural reasons, while others, like Stephen Cook, believe it is no longer necessary and advocate for a gradual phasing out of aid over a decade. Cook argues that Israel, with its advanced industrial economy and military capabilities, can afford to provide for its own defense. The chapter also discusses the constraints on how Israel is supposed to use the weapons it buys with US aid, emphasizing the ambiguity surrounding the term "defensive purposes" and the inherent difficulty in controlling the use of weapons once they are delivered.

Keywords

Israel
Israel is a country located in the Middle East, officially known as the State of Israel. It is a parliamentary democracy with a diverse population, including Jewish, Arab, and other ethnic groups. Israel has a long and complex history, dating back to ancient times, and has been involved in numerous conflicts with its neighbors. The country is known for its technological advancements, particularly in the fields of agriculture, medicine, and defense. Israel is also a major recipient of US military aid, which has been a source of debate and controversy.

US Military Aid
US military aid refers to the financial and material assistance provided by the United States government to foreign countries for their defense and security. This aid can take various forms, including grants, loans, and the provision of weapons, equipment, and training. The US provides military aid to a wide range of countries, with Israel being one of the largest recipients. The rationale behind US military aid is often based on strategic considerations, such as maintaining regional stability, promoting democracy, and countering terrorism. However, the practice has also been criticized for its potential to fuel conflicts and undermine human rights.

Foreign Military Financing Program
The Foreign Military Financing Program (FMF) is a US government program that provides financial assistance to foreign countries to purchase US-made weapons and equipment. The program is administered by the US Department of State and is intended to strengthen the security of US allies and partners. Israel is a major recipient of FMF funds, receiving billions of dollars annually to purchase weapons such as artillery shells, jet fighters, and other military equipment. The program has been a source of debate, with some arguing that it is essential for US security while others criticize its potential to fuel conflicts and undermine human rights.

Hamas
Hamas is a Palestinian Islamist political organization and militant group that controls the Gaza Strip. It is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States, and the European Union. Hamas's stated goal is to establish an independent Palestinian state in all of historic Palestine, including the territory currently controlled by Israel. The organization has been involved in numerous armed conflicts with Israel, including the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. Hamas's policies and actions have been widely criticized for their use of violence and their disregard for civilian lives.

Council on Foreign Relations
The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is a nonpartisan, independent membership organization and think tank specializing in US foreign policy and international affairs. Founded in 1921, the CFR is known for its research, analysis, and publications on a wide range of global issues. The organization's members include prominent figures from government, business, academia, and the media. The CFR's work aims to inform public debate and policymaking on international issues, and its publications and events are widely respected for their insights and expertise.

Stephen Cook
Stephen Cook is a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, specializing in US Middle East policy. He has extensive experience studying the region and has authored numerous publications on US foreign policy in the Middle East. Cook is a respected expert on the topic of US military aid to Israel and has been a vocal advocate for a gradual phasing out of this aid. His arguments are based on his belief that Israel, with its advanced economy and military capabilities, can afford to provide for its own defense.

Qualitative Military Edge
The term "qualitative military edge" refers to a military advantage that is not simply based on the quantity of weapons or troops but on the quality of technology, training, and tactics. In the context of US military aid to Israel, the policy of ensuring Israel's "qualitative military edge" means that the US provides Israel with advanced weapons and technology that are superior to those provided to its neighbors. This policy aims to maintain Israel's military superiority and deter potential adversaries from attacking. The concept of "qualitative military edge" is often debated, with some arguing that it is necessary for regional stability while others criticize it for fueling arms races and exacerbating tensions.

Q&A

  • What are the main reasons behind the US's long-standing policy of providing military aid to Israel?

    The US provides military aid to Israel for a combination of reasons, including strategic considerations, moral obligations stemming from the Holocaust, and strong evangelical Christian support for Israel. The Cold War also played a significant role in shaping this relationship, as the US sought to counter Soviet influence in the region by bolstering Israel's military.

  • How has the US policy towards Israel's military evolved over time?

    The US initially adopted a policy of neutrality towards Israel, seeking to maintain a balance of power in the Middle East. However, this approach shifted in the early 1960s, leading to a closer relationship with Israel and a policy of ensuring Israel's "qualitative military edge" over its neighbors. This policy has been further solidified in recent decades, with the US providing significant military aid to Israel and ensuring that its weapons are superior to those provided to other countries in the region.

  • What are the arguments for and against continuing US military aid to Israel?

    Those who support continued US military aid to Israel argue that it is essential for regional stability, promotes democracy, and helps counter terrorism. They also emphasize the moral obligation to support Israel, given its history and the threat it faces from its neighbors. However, critics argue that US military aid to Israel fuels conflicts, undermines human rights, and is no longer necessary given Israel's advanced economy and military capabilities. They advocate for a gradual phasing out of aid, allowing Israel to provide for its own defense.

  • What are the constraints on how Israel is supposed to use the weapons it buys with US aid?

    The US has imposed constraints on how Israel is supposed to use the weapons it buys with US aid, generally requiring them to be used for defensive purposes. However, the term "defensive purposes" is ambiguous and subject to interpretation, making it difficult to control the actual use of these weapons once they are delivered.

Show Notes

The United States has been a supporter of Israel since the nation's establishment in 1948. With the civilian death toll rising in the Israel-Hamas war, growing scrutiny is mounting over just how much the U.S. should support Israel's military. Today, a historical explanation for why the United States tied itself so closely to support for Israel.

Related episodes:
Protesters want schools to divest from Israel. How would that work? (Apple / Spotify)

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Comments (1)

Gil Gurevich

It wasn't a civil war! Arabs attacked the jews and didn't agree to the 2 states solutions That was a really biased episode by my opinion

Jun 7th
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Why the U.S. helps pay for Israel's military

Why the U.S. helps pay for Israel's military