Americans already have many misconception about Israel and aid. A 2013 poll by Kaiser Family Foundation found that Americans believe 28 percent of the federal budget is designated for foreign aid—more than Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid or national defense. In reality, of course, it’s around 1 percent. The United States spends approximately $37.6 billion all told, which encompasses not only military and counterterrorism, but humanitarian and economic assistance, as well. Whether this money is dispensed in a productive way, or whether we should be dispensing it at all, is a good debate. I tend to lean towards the latter. But Paul’s intent to cut all Foreign Military Financing was a philosophical position that was without enmity towards Israel. Intent matters.
As far as Israel goes, the United States doesn’t just transfer $3 billion check into the Likud party account. Only about quarter of U.S. aid is spent on military procurement and the rest is spent buying products in American markets. Unlike most aid it isn’t being flushed through corrupt regimes, statist economies and, quite often, outright enemies. None of that changes the fact that Israel is largest recipient of American aid. And it doesn’t change the fact that Israel is beneficiary of the economic boost. The question is does Israel need it?
Israel’s gross domestic product is $291.3 billion—doubling in the last 15 years or so. Our trade with Israel amounts to somewhere around $45 billion. The per-capita GDP is $35,658. Broadening trade opportunities rather than offering and taking assistance would likely serve both nations far more than what amounts to a small stimulus. With high levels of innovation, its natural gas deposits, new trade arrangements with China, India, and Europe, Israel is in a position to gradually stop accepting relief without great economic pain.