Since 1948 – and even more so after the collapse of the Soviet Union – annual US aid packages to Israel have largely been driven by the lobbying efforts of Israel affinity organizations in the United States rather than strategic or national defense calculations
A majority Americans say U.S. foreign aid to Israel is excessive – either “much too much” (32.5 percent) or “too much’ (29.4 percent). The single-question March 10, 2016 opinion survey, fielded throughGoogle Consumer Surveys, reveals only slight changes since it was first asked on September 27, 2014. (For details on sample size, bias and other findings, see the survey data links above).
While Adult Internet users believing US aid to Israel is either “too little” or “much too little” increased a net 1.5 percentage points overall, those believing it to be “too much” or “much too much” rose 1.2 percentage points. Americans believing aid was “about right” declined 2.6 percentage points.
The US has provided more aid since Israel’s creation in 1948 – $250 billion adjusted for inflation – than to any other foreign country according to unclassified government figures (PDF) adjusted for inflation. These figures do not include separate funding flows from state and municipal governments that Israel affinity organizations quietly lobby in order to provide even more aid to Israel. The quarter-trillion-dollar figure also excludes classified US federal government support.
American military and intelligence aid is now at “unprecedented” levels according to President Obama in a 2015 speech delivered at American University. If true, secret intelligence support may now have reached an additional $1.9-$13.2 billion annually depending on whether Obama adjusted for inflation. Since annual military aid is publicly reported, unreported intelligence aid would have to be within that range in order for the total to truly historically be “unprecedented.” However, the CIA refuses to disclose how much the Obama administration is secretly funneling to Israel, a matter now subject to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
Since 1948 – and even more so after the collapse of the Soviet Union – annual US aid packages to Israel have largely been driven by the lobbying efforts of Israel affinity organizations in the United States rather than strategic or national defense calculations. Today, the annual combined revenue of 336 distinct Israel affinity organizations is closely correlated to the total unclassified annual US Israel aid package. On a chart, unclassified US foreign aid resembles an enormous “matching grants” program under which US elected officials, appointees and captured agencies give away taxpayer dollars in roughly the same amounts the Israel lobby raises – tax-exempt – in order to advocate, educate, subsidize and lobby Israel’s priorities in America. Another nonmilitary or intelligence agency has also played a role in gutting the accountability of Israel affinity organizations, such as the Weizmann Institute for Science which conducts nuclear weapons research.
The Internal Revenue Service thwarted Israel affinity organizations’ transparency and accountability in reporting their own annual transfers of billions of tax-exempt contributions raised in the US to Israel. In the 1960s, IRS commissioner Mortimer Caplin refused to cooperate after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee formally requested an IRS investigation after the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) parent organization was ordered to register as an Israel foreign agent. During the reign of IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman the IRS faced heightened public scrutiny over billions in tax-exempt illegal settlement funding from US charitable organizations that received tax-exempt IRS status. Rather than investigate or revoke tax-exempt status, the IRS ordered that beginning in 2008 tax-exempt organizations could stop reporting recipient entities in all foreign destinations – including Israel and Israeli-occupied territories – on their publicly filed tax returns – effectively eliminating the IRS’s own oversight capabilities. (PDF)
Although the Israeli government overtly and covertly attempted to defeat a 2015 international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program last year – the Joint Comprehensive Plan for Action – Israel is now seeking a massive increase in US aid. A July, 2015 survey revealed 67.8 percent of Americans also opposed compensating Israel over the JCPA that both Israel and its US lobby worked so diligently to overturn.
Grant F. Smith is the author of the new book Big Israel: How Israel’s Lobby Moves America. He is director of the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy in Washington (IRmep), D.C. Read other articles by Smith, or visit the IRmep website.