As Israel Cuts Defense Budget, U.S. Senators Question Aid

United States gives Israel $3.1 billion in military aid a year, not including special aid for specific purposes like Iron Dome.

Amos Harel
Amos Harel
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An Iron Dome missile responding to a rocket launch from the Gaza Strip.
An Iron Dome missile responding to a rocket launch from the Gaza Strip.Credit: AFP
Amos Harel
Amos Harel

The debate over the size of the Israeli defense budget has reached the U.S. Senate too. In a committee session held at the beginning of June, senators raised, for the first time, the question of whether the United States needs to continue granting such a large amount of military aid to Israel.

The United States gives Israel $3.1 billion in military aid a year, which is used for buying American-produced military equipment. In addition, the United States provides special military aid for specific purposes.

During the Obama administration years, the United States has given Israel almost $1 billion to develop weapons systems to intercept rockets and missiles, including the Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow projects.

During the recent session, the issue of allocating an additional $175 million for further development of the Iron Dome interception system was discussed, but the sum has yet to be approved.

A number of senators commented on the debate in Israel over the defense budget and the Israeli Defense Ministry’s claims that its budget has been cut. (According to the Finance Ministry the defense budget has not been cut this year.)

Recently, the Israel Defense Forces and the Defense Ministry demanded additional funding of some 2 billion shekels through the end of this year, and the cabinet is supposed to make a decision about this at the end of June.

With this debate in the background, and given the IDF’s claims that it has run out of money for ongoing expenses, the IDF ordered a halt to all air force training flights at the beginning of the month and cut back significantly on training for the ground forces.

The American defense budget has also faced large cutbacks recently and is now 3.8 percent of the country’s GDP.

It seems the senators’ questions and comments reflect their being somewhat uncomfortable with the large amounts of aid Israel continues to receive at a time when the troubles of the American economy require cuts in the national defense budget.

But it is hard to believe that in the coming years there will be a major change in the level of bipartisan support in the Senate and House of Representatives that would lead to a change in military aid to Israel.

Budgetary constraints have already led to a delay in the development of the mid-range missile interception system David’s Sling. The Defense Ministry and IDF have recently delayed the establishment of the infrastructure needed to operate the system, and now it seems it will only enter service in 2015; the original plan was for it to be ready by the end of this year.

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