Nov 4, 2023 - World
Axios Explains: Israel-Hamas war

What to know about U.S. aid to Israel

U.S. <span style="color: #ffa515;">economic</span> and <span style="color: #054f9f;">military</span> aid to Israel, 1951–2023
Data: USAID, Congressional Research Service; Note: Excludes missile defense spending; Partial data for 2022–2023; Adjusted for 2022 dollars; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

In the wake of Hamas' surprise attack on Oct. 7, U.S. leaders reaffirmed the long-standing strategic and military alliance with Israel — but political disagreements have delayed a new security assistance package.

Driving the news: President Biden requested at least $14.3 billion in additional assistance to Israel, which would include money for air and missile defense systems, including the Iron Dome.

State of play on Biden's funding request

  • The dominant dispute within Congress is whether to fulfill Biden's request to tie aid to Israel to additional security assistance for Ukraine, as well as border security funding.
  • House Speaker Mike Johnson's (R-La.) is attempting to match Biden's Israeli aid request, but without pairing it with Ukraine aid. He also wants to strip an equal amount in IRS funding from the Inflation Reduction Act.
  • That approach is opposed by many Democrats, some Republicans and Biden, who has said he will veto any stand-alone Israel-funding bill.

Of note: Complicating the situation further is the fact the U.S. is heading toward yet another government funding deadline after just narrowly averting a shutdown in September.

75 years of support

Though the timing of a new security package remains unclear, the U.S. is by far the biggest supplier of military aid to Israel, contributing around $130 billion since its founding.

  • With the U.S.' help, Israel has formed one of the most formidable and technologically advanced militaries in the Middle East.
  • Both Republican and Democratic administrations and bipartisan leaders in Congress have approved aid to Israel over several decades. In return, the U.S. has cultivated a strategic military ally in the Middle East.
  • As part of an agreement reached under the Obama administration, Israel receives $3.8 billion annually for its military and missile defense systems.
  • Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. foreign military financing, which has represented around 15% of the country's defense budget in recent years.

What the U.S. provides

Most U.S. assistance comes in the form of weapons grants, and more than 80% of Israel's weapons imports came from the U.S. between 1950 and 2020.

  • Israel is also given access to the most advanced military equipment in the world, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
  • In addition to the aid, Israel and the U.S. have conducted several military drills together, holding their largest one ever in January 2023.
  • The two countries also share intelligence with each other, though the extent of the cooperation has shifted multiple times in recent years.

Economic assistance tapers off

The U.S. heavily supported Israel's economy over several decades, helping it become a key economic ally, with trade between the two countries reaching nearly $50 billion annually.

  • Actual economic aid tapered off starting in the 1990s as the country's tech sector boomed and it was "considered a fully industrialized nation."
  • The two countries share strong cultural ties, as well. Outside of Israel, the U.S. is home to the largest Jewish population in the world.

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