In Editorial, NYT Asks: Does Ever-growing U.S. Defense Aid to Israel Make Sense?

The New York Times notes the discourse surrounding the agreement fails to discuss American needs.

Sen. Lindsey Graham with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel.
Kobi Gideon, GPO

In an editorial released Friday, the New York Times questioned the size of U.S. military aid to Israel and highlighted the convoluted and politicized nature of the debate surrounding the $38 billion defense agreement signed by the two countries last week.

"For decades, Israel has been the leading recipient of American aid, far surpassing other countries," the newspaper's editorial board wrote, adding that "For many years, substantial assistance was warranted in recognition of Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt and its need to defend against hostile Arab states."

However, despite what it called a "compelling need for the United States’ continued commitment to Israel’s security," the paper said "it is worth asking whether the ever-increasing aid levels make sense, especially in the face of America’s other pressing domestic and overseas obligations."

Citing criticism in both Israel and the U.S. that the size of the aid package – touted by the White House as "unprecedented" in scale – was low, the Gray Lady highlighted how the discourse surrounding the agreement was highly politicized and devoid of discussion of American needs.

"Even before the ink was dry on the new [agreement], Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina threw down the gauntlet and promised to fight the Obama administration over key elements of the deal, including its size. Mr. Graham wants Congress to approve billions more.

"His reaction is a measure of how politics complicates policy toward America’s closest Middle East ally and how difficult it is to have a straightforward debate about aid levels," the paper wrote.

While the Times' editorial board did praise some of the deal's caveats, namely the demand that U.S. funds would be used to buy U.S.-made goods, it took issue with one of its key agreements: Netanyahu's written promise not to lobby U.S. lawmakers for additional funds.

"There are few ways to enforce Mr. Netanyahu’s promise," the paper wrote, calling it "odd," and noting that it does little to prevent lawmakers like Graham from funneling more funds to Israel.

“I’m going to put on the table more aid to Israel,” Graham was quoted by the paper saying, "But in truth, the aid package is already too big," it concludes.