After nearly two weeks of violence, Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, reached a cease-fire agreement on May 20, following President Joe Biden’s call for immediate de-escalation.
“The United States fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks from Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist groups that have taken the lives of innocent civilians in Israel,” Biden said in an address Thursday, after the cease-fire was announced, reiterating his support for replenishing Israel’s Iron Dome defense system going forward.
The cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas, coupled with last month’s announcement that the last American combat troops will leave Afghanistan by this September, puts a spotlight on the amount and type of foreign aid the U.S. distributes around the world.
The U.S. gave more than $3.8 billion in foreign assistance to Israel in 2019, according to a recent USAFacts report based on data from the U.S. Agency for International Development. Of that aid, around $8.5 million went toward the economy, while the rest went to the Israeli military as part of a 10-year agreement signed in 2016 which supports maintaining the country’s missile defense system, among other military capabilities. The White House acknowledged the pact as being the “largest single pledge of military assistance in U.S. history.”
In 2019, the U.S. granted $47.2 billion in foreign aid globally, including both economic and military aid, which accounted for slightly more than 1% of total federal spending, according to USAFacts. The U.S. granted $33.1 billion in economic aid – 91% higher than 2000 levels, and 52% lower than 1949, post-World War II peak levels. The U.S. also granted $14.1 billion in military aid in 2019, up 89% from 2000, and down 60% from its 1952 Cold War era peak.
U.S. foreign aid to Israel was the second-highest aid expenditure to any country in 2019. Afghanistan received $4.9 billion in U.S. aid that year, and Israel and Afghanistan accounted for 7% and 10% of all U.S. foreign aid, respectively. Of all U.S. military assistance worldwide, Israel and Afghanistan accounted for 23% and 26%, respectively, of U.S. aid spending.
Israel has received the most U.S. foreign assistance of any country since World War II, at $243.9 billion, adjusted for inflation, and has been among the countries receiving the most aid every year since 1971.
In recent decades, U.S. foreign aid to Israel has largely gone toward military efforts, making up more than 70% since 2000, and reaching a record of 99.7% of aid toward military funding in 2019. According to the Congressional Research Service, U.S. foreign aid to Israel “has been designed to maintain Israel’s ‘qualitative military edge’ over neighboring militaries,” and makes up about 20% of Israel’s total military budget annually.