Despite criticism from a few Americans, US aid to Israel is not really aid at all, and it's certainly not given out of altruism. Indeed, the $3.8 billion provided annually to Israel by the United States is actually an investment made in our own security -- one that delivers an incomparably high return.
Several presidential candidates recently proposed suspending some or part of this investment unless the Jewish state does more to support the US goal of facilitating an independent state for the Palestinians. Such proposals mistake the self-interested purpose of these funds and confuses their relationship to a Palestinian peace process.
Let's put the Israel investment in some context. Foreign aid is usually less than one percent of the US Federal budget. The United States currently spends about $75 billion on military operations in and aid for Afghanistan, $65 billion for Iraq, and $3.25 billion for Pakistan. The value of this $143.25 billion in spending certainly bears scrutiny, but few Americans complain about it.
Let's consider the value of the win-win US investment in Israel
First, US funds do not support day-to-day operations of the Israel Defense Forces, but rather are largely used by Israel to purchase armaments from the United States, such as the F-35 stealth fighter, and to develop -- together with the United States -- new advanced weapon systems, such as the Iron Dome, Arrow 3, and David's Sling missile defenses.
In short, 70 percent of the US investment in Israel must be spent on US military equipment -- which supports US high-tech defense jobs and our industrial base.
Second, the nations and forces that threaten Israel are also those that threaten US interests -- Iran, Syria, US-designated terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, and non-state actors like Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
Remember that Israel destroyed both a nuclear weapons factory in Saddam Hussein's Iraq in 1981 and a Syrian nuclear facility under construction in 2007.
Note that Israel has attacked proxies of America's number one enemy -- Iran -- in Syria and Lebanon more than 200 times in recent years. It assists Egypt in destroying Al Qaeda cells in the Sinai Peninsula. No nation -- anywhere -- is more assertive in battling jihadist forces.
Third, Israel is ranked the eighth most powerful nation globally, based on economic influence, political influence, international alliances, and military strength.
It is not only America's strongest ally in the Middle East, it is also one of our strongest worldwide. Tellingly, the United Nations General Assembly, for the 28th consecutive year, voted to condemn the United States embargo of Cuba. Last year, only Israel joined the United States in opposing the vote, while this year only Israel and Brazil supported the United States.
Fourth, though no US troops need to be stationed in Israel, we do collaborate on the American/Israeli co-designed X-band radar system, which helps both countries monitor Middle East threats.
Indeed, Israel is also a world leader in cyber security and intelligence, providing the United States with a continuous feed of priceless intelligence on Iran, Syria, Russia, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Hamas.
Recall that Israel is reported to have teamed up with the United States to wreak havoc on Iran's nuclear program via the Stuxnet computer virus. Last year, Israel agents penetrated Iran's secret nuclear warehouse in Tehran, taking documents that proved Iran's violations of the 2015 nuclear accord.
Fifth, Israel serves as a port of call for US troops, ships, aircraft, and intelligence operations. It is strategically located on the Mediterranean and Red seas, enabling it to monitor (and guard) critical waterways.
In short, as former US Representative Steve Rothman (D-NJ) put it, "For about two percent of what the US spends in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan this year, Americans can take pride in the return on our investment in aid to Israel."
Finally, as for linking the US investment in Israel's security -- and our own security -- to some type of "progress" in the creation of a Palestinian state, this would be a major mistake on two counts:
First, the United States cannot afford to jeopardize the safety of our nation, or that of our valued ally Israel, or that of our other friends in the Middle East, for the sake of an unrelated matter, such as Palestinian sovereignty.
Second, after the refusal by the Palestinians of three generous offers of land for peace by Israel since 2000, as well as the Palestinians' refusal to negotiate further with Israel since 2010, it hardly seems fair to hold Israel solely responsible for the creation of a Palestinian state.
Our support for Israel is an investment first and foremost in our own security, and secondly in the safety of one of our greatest allies.