The United States of America is Israel’s big brother and really loves us. Israel does not have and apparently will not have another friend like it. According to a recent Congress report, Israel is the country that has received more cumulative American aid than any other country since the end of World War II.
Since it began in 1962, American military aid to Israel has amounted to nearly $100 billion. For the past decades the United States has been regularly transferring aid of about $3 billion annually. In recent years, the aid has been solely for defense purposes. Additionally, the U.S. has been giving Israel generous military aid for projects that are important both to it and to Israel.
Between the establishment of the state and the first decade of this century, the economic aid the United States gave Israel was modest. Its civilian aid to Israel began in 1949 – less than a year after the establishment of the state, when Israel was in terrible economic distress – with help in purchasing food and absorbing the mass immigration of Jewish refugees. The amount of the aid was small, $100 million, and some of the money went towards purchasing basic foodstuffs, such as grains.
In the 1950s, America gave Israel only civilian aid, for economic purposes, and this was doled out in loans and small grants. In 1951 the United States refused to help Israel advance the reparations agreement with Germany, which was signed the following year and gave Israel some economic breathing room.
The change began during Lyndon Johnson’s administration (1963-1969), when the United States began transferring more significant civilian aid to Israel, which increased over the years. Between the establishment of the state and 1962, the United States under Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower imposed a total arms embargo on Israel. The first president to lift the embargo was John Kennedy, who in 1962 allowed Israel to pay in full for surface-to-air Hawk missiles. In 1965 America sold offensive weapons – Patton tanks – to Israel for the first time. In the 1960s, France was Israel’s major arms supplier, until the turnaround after the Six-Day War, when the United States became its main supplier.
In 1984 the Cranston Amendment stopped loans to Israel while increasing the grants in order to put an end to past debts. From 1985 on, in the framework of the plan to stabilize the economy, American aid was pegged at a grant of $3 billion annually. In that year Israel also received another grant of $1.5 billion. One of the negotiators between the countries in 1985 was Professor Stanley Fischer, who later became the governor of the Bank of Israel.
The largest amount of American aid in grants and loans in a single year came to $15.7 billion in 1979, when Israel signed the peace treaty with Egypt. Cumulatively, American aid to Israel between 1950 and 2013 amounted to about 3% of Israel’s GDP during that period.
For about the past 20 years, under the American-Israeli agreement, the grants from the United States are used for the purpose of purchasing arms and other security equipment (for example fuels) that Israel needs for propelling its war machine. One of the most expensive arms deals in the history of Israel’s defense forces – the purchase of 20 F-35 fighter planes for $2.7 billion – will be financed entirely by aid money. The deal was signed towards the end of 2010 and the first planes are slated to be delivered to Israel next year.