Amid the vigorous, and often divisive, debates on the Biden administration’s support for Israel’s war on Gaza, one issue has received relatively little attention: How much of Israel’s war effort is underwritten by the United States?
There’s no question that US aid provides a substantial share of Israel’s war costs. A rough sense of the overall importance of US aid to the Israeli war effort can be developed by comparing the $14 billion in military aid proposed by the Biden administration with an estimate by the Israeli financial newspaper Calcalist, first reported by Reuters. Calcalist estimates that the conflict in Gaza will cost Tel Aviv roughly $50 billion if it goes on for eight to 12 months.
If the Calcalist estimate is on the mark, that would mean that if the $14 billion in proposed US aid is approved and disbursed over the next year, it would account for just over one-quarter of the total cost of the war to Israel. About half of the estimate—$25 billion—represents direct military costs, with the additional costs related to negative economic impacts of the war, compensation for businesses, and reconstruction. If US aid is compared only to the estimate of direct military costs of the war, it would amount to more than half of relevant expenditures. No estimate made in the midst of an ongoing conflict will be entirely accurate, but what we do know suggests that US tax dollars are a major factor in sustaining the Israeli war effort.
The role of US-supplied weapons may be even more important than the question of how much of the costs of the war would be paid for with American tax dollars. The United States has been Israel’s principal arms supplier since the nation’s inception—supplying military aid to the tune of $124 billion over that time period before adjusting for inflation. Washington is currently in the fifth year of a 10-year $38 billion military aid commitment to Tel Aviv, or $3.8 billion per year. This annual figure will be dwarfed by the $14 billion in military aid contained in the administration’s pending emergency aid request. The types of weaponry in the package include large quantities of bombs and tens of thousands of 155mm artillery shells that can be put straight to use in the Gaza war. A recent policy brief by Oxfam noted that the supply of artillery shells is particularly problematic:
155mm shells are a weapon of choice in Israel’s ground operation in Gaza, which will cause untold harm to civilians as it intensifies further. Israel’s use of this munition in past conflicts demonstrates that its use would be virtually assured to be indiscriminate, unlawful, and devastating to civilians in Gaza.
Read the full piece in The Nation.