About Us






Saturday, February 11, 2017
[Japan: US$27 billion, Israel:US$3.1 billion] Dispelling the Myth that Israel Is the Largest Beneficiary of US Military Aid, by Prof. Hillel Frisch†

Annual US military aid:
Aid in form of funding: Israel:US$3.1 billion
Aid in form of cost of stationing US troops (does not include air and sea
patrols or joint ground, air, and maritime exercises with host countries)
Japan: US$27 billion
Germany: US$21 billion
South Korea: US$15 billion
Italy: US$6 billion

Dispelling the Myth that Israel Is the Largest Beneficiary of US Military
By Prof. Hillel Frisch, February 10, 2017
BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 410, February 10, 2017

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Many American detractors of Israel begin by citing that
Israel receives the lionís share of US military aid. The very suggestion
conjures the demon of an all-powerful Israel lobby that has turned the US
Congress into its pawn. But these figures, while reflecting official direct
US military aid, are almost meaningless in comparison to the real costs and
benefits of US military aid Ė above all, American boots on the ground. In
reality, Israel receives only a small fraction of American military aid, and
most of that was spent in the US to the benefit of the American economy.

Countless articles discrediting Israel (as well as many other
better-intentioned articles) ask how it is that a country as small as Israel
receives the bulk of US military aid. Israel receives 55%, or $US3.1 billion
per year, followed by Egypt, which receives 23%. This largesse comes at the
expense, so it is claimed, of other equal or more important allies, such as
Germany, Japan, and South Korea. The complaint conjures the specter of an
all-powerful Israel lobby that has turned the US Congress into its pawn.

The response to the charge is simple: Israel is not even a major beneficiary
of American military aid. The numerical figure reflects official direct US
military aid, but is almost meaningless compared to the real costs and
benefits of US military aid Ė which include, above all, American boots on
the ground in the host states.

There are 150,500 American troops stationed in seventy countries around the
globe. This costs the American taxpayer an annual $US85-100 billion,
according to David Vine, a professor at American University and author of a
book on the subject. In other words, 800-1,000 American soldiers stationed
abroad represent US$565-665 million of aid to the country in which they are

Once the real costs are calculated, the largest aid recipient is revealed to
be Japan, where 48,828 US military personnel are stationed. This translates
into a US military aid package of over US$27 billion (calculated according
to Vineís lower estimation). Germany, with 37,704 US troops on its soil,
receives aid equivalent to around US$21 billion; South Korea, with 27,553 US
troops, receives over US$15 billion; and Italy receives at least US$6

If Vineís estimate is correct, Japanís US military aid package is nine times
larger than that of Israel, Germanyís is seven times larger, and Italyís is
twice as large. The multipliers are even greater for Egypt. Even the
Lilliputian Gulf states, Kuwait and Bahrain, whose American bases are home
to over 5,000 US military personnel apiece, receive military aid almost
equal to what Israel receives.

Yet even these figures grossly underestimate the total costs of US aid to
its allies. The cost of maintaining troops abroad does not reflect the
considerable expense, deeply buried in classified US military expenditure
figures, of numerous US air and sea patrols. Nor does it reflect the high
cost of joint ground, air, and maritime exercises with host countries
(events only grudgingly acknowledged on NATOís official site).

US air and naval forces constantly patrol the Northern, Baltic, and China
Seas to protect American allies in Europe and in the Pacific Ė at American
expense. Glimpses of the scale of these operations are afforded by incidents
like the shadowing of a Russian ship in the Baltics, near run-ins between
Chinese Coast Guard ships and US Navy ships dispatched to challenge Chinese
claims in the South China Sea, and near collisions between US Air Force
planes and their Chinese counterparts in the same area.

In striking contrast, no US plane has ever flown to protect Israelís
airspace. No US Navy ship patrols to protect Israelís coast. And most
importantly, no US military personnel are put at risk to ensure Israelís

In Japan, South Korea, Germany, Kuwait, Qatar, the Baltic states, Poland,
and elsewhere, US troops are a vulnerable trip-wire. It is hoped that their
presence will deter attack, but there is never any assurance that an attack
will not take place. Should such an attack occur, it will no doubt cost
American lives.

This cannot happen in Israel, which defends its own turf with its own
troops. There is no danger that in Israel, the US might find itself
embroiled in wars like those it waged in Iraq and Afghanistan at a cost of
US$4 trillion, according to Linda J. Bilmes, a public policy professor and
Harvard University researcher.

Japanís presence at the top of the list of US military aid recipients is
both understandable and debatable. It is understandable because Japan is
critical to US national security in terms of maintaining freedom of the seas
and containing a rising China. It is debatable because Japan is a rich
country that ought to pay for the US troops stationed within it Ė or in lieu
of that, to significantly strengthen its own army. At present, the Japanese
army numbers close to 250,000, but it is facing the rapidly expanding
military power of its main adversary, China. A similar case can be made with
regard to Germany, both in terms of its wealth and its contribution towards
meeting the Russian threat.

What is incomprehensible is not why Israel receives so much US military aid,
but why Japan has received nine times more aid than Israel does. This is a
curious proportion given the relative power Israel possesses in the Middle
East and its potential to advance vital US security interests in times of
crisis, compared to the force maintained by Japan relative to China.

Ever since the Turkish parliamentís decision in March 2003 not to join the
US-led coalition, and the Turkish governmentís refusal to allow movement of
American troops across its borders, Israel has been Americaís sole ally
between Cyprus and India with a strategic air force and (albeit small) rapid
force deployment capabilities to counter major threats to vital US

It takes little imagination to envision these potential threats. Iran might
decide to occupy Bahrain, which has a Shiite majority seriously at odds with
the ruling Sunni monarchy. It might take over the United Arab Emirates,
which plays a major role in the air offensive against the Houthis, Iranís
proxies in the war in Yemen. There might be a combined Syrian and Iraqi bid
to destabilize Sunni Jordan, in the event that both states subdue their
Sunni rebels. Any of these moves would threaten vital energy supplies to the
US and its allies. Only Israel can be depended upon completely to provide
bases and utilities for a US response and to participate in the effort if

The politicians, pundits, and IR scholars who attack Israel and the Israeli
lobby for extracting the lionís share of US military aid from a gullible
Congress know full well that this is not true. Israel receives a small
fraction of the real outlays of military aid the US indirectly gives its
allies and other countries. These experts also know that 74% of military aid
to Israel was spent on American arms, equipment, and services. Under the
recently signed Memorandum of Understanding, that figure will be changed to
100%. The experts simply cite the wrong figures.

The US is now led by a businessman president who knows his dollars and
cents. He has been adamant about the need to curb free-riding by the large
recipients of real US aid. He will, one hopes, appreciate the security
bargain the US has with Israel Ė a country that not only shares many common
values with the US, but can make a meaningful contribution to American vital
interests with no trip-wires attached.
Prof. Hillel Frisch is a professor of political studies and Middle East
studies at Bar-Ilan University and a senior research associate at the
Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.

BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the
Greg Rosshandler Family

Search For An Article

Contact Us

POB 982 Kfar Sava
Tel 972-9-7604719
Fax 972-3-7255730
email:imra@netvision.net.il IMRA is now also on Twitter

image004.jpg (8687 bytes)