GT investigates: How US reaps benefits through decades of military aid, weapon sales to Israel
Published: Oct 20, 2023 11:03 AM Updated: Oct 24, 2023 06:57 PM
Palestinians search for survivors after an Israeli airstrike on buildings in the refugee camp of Jabalia in the Gaza Strip on October 9, 2023. Photo: VCG

Palestinians search for survivors after an Israeli airstrike on buildings in the refugee camp of Jabalia in the Gaza Strip on October 9, 2023. Photo: VCG

Eighteen days have passed since Israel launched its bombardment offensive against the besieged Gaza Strip, following a deadly attack on October 7 by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas. The conflict had killed more than 5,000 Palestinians, about 40 percent of which were children, and about 1,400 Israelis as of Monday, according to media reports.

Many countries, including China, have openly called on relevant parties to remain calm, exercise restraint, and immediately end hostilities, to protect civilians and avoid further loss of life.

While the US, in sharp contrast, is actively transporting more lethal weapons to Israel, demonstrating conspicuous support for its "close ally," as it has done in many previous bloody conflicts in the region.

The US is also the sole vote against a United Nations Security Council resolution on Wednesday that would have condemned Hamas' attack on Israel while calling for a pause in the fighting to allow humanitarian assistance into Gaza, with 12 members voting in favor and Russia and the UK abstaining.

US President Joe Biden visited Israel on October 18, "putting himself in harm's way to show that he stands squarely with the country," according to US media sources. Before his arrival, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stressed that Israel "has the right to defend itself," when announcing Biden's Israel visit.

The US' unsurprising one-sided support, including its military aid, will likely escalate the already fraught situation between Israel and Hamas, and reduce the likelihood of peace talks between the two sides in the near future. That may lead to further catastrophic loss of life, warned some experts in international relations and Middle East affairs reached by the Global Times.

Israeli military vehicles patrol as armed forces increase measures in Sha'ar Hanegev, Sderot, a Israeli city near the border with Gaza, on October 12, 2023. Photo: VCG

Israeli military vehicles patrol as armed forces increase measures in Sha'ar Hanegev, Sderot, a Israeli city near the border with Gaza, on October 12, 2023. Photo: VCG

Heightened tensions

Despite footage of innocent children killed in airstrikes causing a global outcry, the US is sending more arms and ammunition to Israel, intensifying the running gun battle on the ground.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced over the weekend that Washington is sending multiple military ships and the USS Gerald R. Ford, the world's largest aircraft carrier, "as a show of force to its closest ally in the region," Al Jazeera reported.

"I have directed the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group (CSG) to begin moving to the Eastern Mediterranean…the Eisenhower CSG will join the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group, which arrived earlier this week," read a statement by Austin published on the US Department of Defense website, on October 14. Previously, the US Air Force had announced the deployment of F-15, F-16 and A-10 fighter aircraft squadrons to the region.

Increased US force posturing signals the country's "ironclad commitment to Israel's security," said the statement.

As Israel has an absolute military advantage over Hamas, the US' military support for Israel is more of a political tool for the Biden administration to demonstrate its allyship to Israel and its domestic politicians, analyzed Chinese observers.

It is in the US' domestic interests to militarily aid Israel, said Li Weijian, a research fellow at the Institute for Foreign Policy Studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies. "Supporting Israel is politically correct in the US, a country with more than 6 million people of Jewish heritage, many of whom make up the core of the US' political and public opinion power, with positions in major government departments and media outlets," Li told the Global Times.

"Biden has announced his reelection bid for 2024 presidential elections. Aiding Israel at this moment can bring him more domestic support," Li said.

Biden is counting on successfully brokering the normalization of Saudi-Israeli relations to boost his performance in the Middle East before the presidential elections in 2024, said Niu Xinchun, a research fellow at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations in Beijing.

However, the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas "may not only sink the deal, but also likely to deal a heavy blow to Biden's performance in the election," Niu told the Global Times.

After the conflict broke out, some lawmakers in the US urged Biden to communicate that Israel's response to Hamas' attack must limit harm to civilians and adhere to international law. "We write to express our concerns regarding the unfolding humanitarian situation in Gaza," read the letter to Biden and Blinken, signed by 55 lawmakers.

The letter listed five requests to the Biden administration, including putting pressure on Israel to adhere to international law and helping set up a humanitarian corridor, reported The Hill on October 13.

The US' one-sided military aid has only served to heightened tensions. Worse still, due to the lack of supervision, US aid to Israel is not transparent enough and is suspected of abetting war crimes, warned observers.

There has been one US politician who caused great controversy due to his Israeli military background.

Brian Mast, a member of the US Congress, with a seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, reportedly arrived to work on October 13 in the uniform of the Israeli military. "As the only member to serve with both the United States Army and the Israel Defense Forces, I will always stand with Israel," he posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that morning.

According to US-based news site Grayzone, Mast previously served in the US military in Afghanistan. He volunteered as a bomb disposal specialist for the Israeli army during its 2014 assault on the Gaza Strip. The assault resulted in the death of 2,202 Palestinians, including 526 children.

"Is it appropriate that someone who has served in a foreign military be allowed to return to the United States and serve on such a sensitive government committee, earning a security clearance along the way?" asked Grayzone.

Picture shows batteries of Israel's Iron Dome air defence system. Photo: VCG

Picture shows batteries of Israel's Iron Dome air defence system. Photo: VCG

US 'always be there'

When speaking with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Blinken promised that the US will "always be there" for Israel, the BBC reported on October 12.

Blinken was not mistaken in his assertion. The US indeed has always been there for Israel for more than 70 years, constantly providing the country with weapons, allowing it to maintain the most powerful militaries in the Middle East, and complementing it with advanced surveillance and weapons.

According to a report published by the Congressional ReAccording to a report published by the Congressional Research Service under the US Congress on March 1, 2023, Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of US foreign assistance since World War II. To date, the US has provided Israel with $158 billion in bilateral assistance and missile defense funding.

In 2016, the US and Israeli governments signed their third 10-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on military aid, under which the US pledged to provide $38 billion in military aid ($33 billion in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) grants plus $5 billion in missile defense appropriations) to Israel, according to the report.

In addition to the $3.8 billion yearly aid as per the MOU, the US also added $98.58 million this year in funding for other cooperative defense and nondefense programs, read the report.

Almost all US bilateral aid to Israel so far has been in the form of military assistance, with some observers noting that the aid is, in fact, a subsidy to the US military industry. 

To date, Israel has purchased 50 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters in three separate contracts, funded with US assistance, and has received a total of 36. For the fiscal year 2023, the US Congress authorized $520 million for joint US-Israel defense programs (including $500 million for missile defense).

According to the BBC, $1.6 billion of US military aid to Israel since 2011 was for the country's Iron Dome short-range anti-rocket, anti-mortar, and anti-artillery system (intercept range of 2.5 to 43 miles). Developed by Israel's Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and originally produced in Israel, the system was first tested in 2011.

US Foreign Aid to Israel 1946-2023 Graphic: Yu Tianjiao/GT

US Foreign Aid to Israel 1946-2023 Graphic: Yu Tianjiao/GT

As a US pawn in the Middle East, Israel serves the US' geographical and defense industry interests. Their decades of special partnership have a historical background known to the whole world, said Li weijian.

Nonetheless, the US continued to support Israel while avoiding the question of Palestinian statehood. "Such a partiality is very unreasonable," Li said.

"The Israel-Palestine conflict will never be resolved without a solution to the question of Palestinian statehood," Li said. "It's Palestine's right to found a state, and the US should not [have a hand] in it."

But the US' goal maybe is never to help achieve a resolution to any conflict, not only the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but every other conflict in the world such as that between Russia and Ukraine. 

The US' response to conflicts is always to escalate the violence instead of encouraging peace. This is because war brings losses and pains to most countries and regions in the world, but the US is one of the few that can exploit the conflict for sickening profits.

Take a look at the performance of US defense stocks this week. The nearly 9 percent rise in Lockheed Martin's stock on Monday was the biggest for the largest US defense contractor on a non-earnings day since March 2020. Northrop Grumman shares also had their best day since 2020.

On a recent earnings call, executives of US defense giant Lockheed Martin highlighted the Israel and Ukraine conflicts "as potential drivers for increased revenue in the coming years," according to a CNN article on October 18.

The US' military support policy to Israel, as well as to other countries or regions, is always out of realistic consideration and aimed to serve the US' own global strategic needs, experts pointed out. 

Instead of contributing to the maintenance of world peace, the US has continued to fuel the escalation and continuation of various conflicts so as to bring fortunes to its military-industrial complex, but it comes at the expense of people's lives. But the approach of relying on wars to get enough orders is dangerous to the world. The world cannot afford to allow them to continue making profits from misfortunes in other countries and regions, experts noted.