It's time for Israel to remove the golden handcuffs

At one time, Israel was reliant on foreign allies. Now, as a high-income country with a growing economy and thriving technology sector, it’s rich enough to pay for its own defense. In 2022, American aid will make up about 20 percent of Israel’s $17.8 billion defense budget. That’s a lot of money, but not an impossible loss for a country with about $400 billion GDP.

Moreover, the aid isn’t really aid. Because almost all of it is reserved for purchases from U.S. suppliers, it’s effectively a subsidy to the American arms industry. That bargain makes sense for members of Congress who want to benefit local industries or their own donors. It’s not clear that it makes sense for Israel, which has domestic producers to support and an interest in getting the best price and products.

Beyond the money, however, the main reason to reconsider American aid is that it implies the U.S. possesses a special authority over Israel, and the value of strategic independence is inestimable. Our military aid is a symbol of American largesse that comes with an expectation of Israeli deference. That’s a bad position for a state rightly proud of its independence. Israel should not need Washington’s permission to act in its own interest.