The word “aid” is defined as “providing for another what is useful or necessary in achieving an end,” yet it seems that foreign aid to Israel is only really useful for the U.S. in achieving its own ends. Many people across the political spectrum are fond of making the claim that “the U.S. and Israel have an unbreakable bond” or that “the U.S. will always be there for Israel,” but in reality this questionable bond is based on making sure that Israel remains completely dependent on the United States’ military industrial complex.
In previous generations, colonization was practiced by physically taking over foreign lands, planting a flag or a head of state, and exporting the benefits of occupation, usually resources, back to a host nation. This system of colonial exploitation is out of style, so countries with imperialistic intentions have evolved, and rather than maintaining their power via overt front-end actions, a more cryptic and deceptive back-end approach has developed.
Today, countries like the U.S., England, France, Russia, or China can dominate a region in the world without having to send troops. All that is necessary is to locate the strongest country in the region, create a military alliance that makes them completely dependent on sourcing weapons and technology for their security, plague the area with localized proxy warfare, and sell weapons to all sides of the conflict. The strongest country in that region now becomes completely reliant on and submissive to the country which provides their weapons for its security, and checkmate.
The articulation of the way the U.S. and other countries play their foreign policy game is in no way an attack on them. Rather, it’s an attempt at providing an honest explanation of how aid functions within a larger strategic framework, in order to better understand the deals being struck and their outcomes.
While it’s true that “the United States gives billions of dollars in aid to Israel each year,” over 90% of that money must only be used as credit for buying weapons from U.S. companies. The motive is to make Israel, or any other country receiving similar aid, dependent on U.S. weapons, ultimately giving the U.S. the ability to leverage that power to their will.
It gets worse. As part of the aid deal with the U.S., Israel also signs off its rights to purchase or sell military technology from or to other countries without Washington’s approval. In practice, many Israeli companies such as Brill, an Israeli boots manufacturing company, have had to close down due to the increase of U.S. foreign aid and Israel needing to find more ways to spend the added credit. In the 1980s, the U.S. even forced Israel to shut down its production of the LAVI fighter jet, a domestic initiative which would have allowed Israel to free its air force from foreign sourcing. Imagine how many jobs and industries could have been created in Israel if it hadn’t sold out to the short-term allure of U.S. aid, and instead invested in its long-term future. There is a repeated theme tied to foreign aid, and that is making sure Israel never becomes fully independent.
The main arguments for maintaining the U.S. aid are that Israel needs this money (credit) for critical defense expenditures, or that since Israel cannot currently manufacture military equipment such as planes, it must rely on other countries to source them. Well, Israel is not a poor country, and if it invested resources in making sure all military equipment and technology was manufactured locally, it could control its own industry, creating more jobs and bringing in more money than the aid itself. Now, it is true that Israel cannot develop its own planes overnight and may need to temporarily depend on external sourcing, but then Israel should at the very least diversify its sourcing and expedite a revamped fighter jet program that would eventually make the country fully independent. The U.S. is not to be blamed, but rather understood, as having only filled the void the British Empire left when it was forced to withdraw from what was then called “Mandatory Palestine.” When the British colonized the Land of Israel/Palestine, they maintained their power—as they did in other areas under their control—by turning the locals against each other, convincing Israelis that Palestinians and Arabs wanted to drive them to the sea, and convincing Palestinians and Arabs that Jewish self-determination was an extension of European colonialism. Just like other peoples who had been manipulated into turning against each other due to British imperialism such as in India/Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria, Israelis, Palestinians, and the neighboring Arab countries were also played, and fell for the same imperial gambit. With the U.S. now replacing Britain’s dominant function, foreign aid is offered in the Levant anywhere that Washington wants to extend its control, which currently includes Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority.
Let’s be clear. There is no inherent issue with Israel maintaining a productive relationship with the United States or any other country as long as the relationship is not toxic, immoral, or harmful to Israel’s long-term interests. We must also keep in mind the current volatile state and uncertain future of the American project. Assuming that the United States still exists in its current form for another 20 years, the likelihood of a future administration becoming more openly hostile to Israel seems increasingly likely given America’s current political trajectory.
“Independence” is defined as “freedom from the control, influence, support, or aid of others,” and if Israel wants to truly achieve independence, the conversation about who Israel is, what role it must play, and how free it wants to be, must begin now.
Rudy Rochman is a Jewish Israel rights activist with over 400,000 followers across social media platforms and videos that have racked up millions of views. Rudy’s work primarily focuses on shifting the global, ideological, and political conversations regarding the Jewish people and Israel, uniting sectors of Israeli society, locating and bringing awareness to the disconnected Tribes of Israel worldwide, creating space for Israelis and Palestinians to unite and transcend their conflict, and generating innovative ways of combating antisemitism.