The Jewish State of Israel and the United States have always been strong allies. We have shared democratic and cultural values, and many Americans share a religious bond to the ancient and current homeland of the Jewish people. This is a bond based on the holiest texts of the Christian and Jewish faiths. However, the unbreakable and intimate nature of the US-Israel alliance runs much deeper than history and religion. Our foreign aid to Israel is essential to US national security interests and is a strategic investment in keeping America safe.

Since the US, under former president Harry Truman, recognized the Jewish State 11 minutes after its declaration of independence in 1948, every US president has supported foreign aid to Israel. Most recently, the US and Israel signed a 10-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to provide Israel with $30 billion in military aid by 2018, which has been fully and completely supported by former president George W. Bush as well as President Barack Obama. More than 70 percent of this aid must be used by Israel to purchase American military equipment.

In stark contrast to President Obama’s further, unprecedentedly high level of foreign aid to Israel, leading Republican presidential candidates have called for foreign aid to every country to “start at zero.” In fact, when Texas Governor Rick Perry said at a recent Republican foreign policy debate that the foreign aid for “[e]very country would start at zero,” former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney said “I agree with Governor Perry. Start everything at zero.” Former speaker of the house Newt Gingrich also endorsed Perry’s vision. This not only totally disregards the MOU both of our countries signed in 2007, but shows a serious lack of understanding of the importance of our commitment to Israel.

If we can’t count on Gingrich, Romney and Perry to stand up for Israel on the national stage of a Republican debate, how do we know they will be with Israel on the international stage as president? Anyone seeking to be the president of the United States must reaffirm our commitment to the MOU and the safety and security of Israel. Israel should not have to worry about a US president who wants to start Israel’s aid at zero.

Israel’s value to America’s national security has already been proven. In fact, calculating the military and strategic benefits to the US-Israel relationship, America’s foreign aid to Israel is a bargain. For just about two percent of what the US spent in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan last year, Americans can clearly see the return on our investment in aid to Israel.

Because of Israel’s military and intelligence capabilities, democratic values and location in such a dangerous region – on the Mediterranean, proximate to the Suez Canal, with quick access to all parts of the Middle East, and vast experience fighting terrorism – Israel is like an aircraft carrier of democracy, freedom and strength in a sea of autocracy, theocracy, and terrorist-challenged monarchies.

In that dangerous region, there is no greater enemy to the national security interests of the US and Israel than Iran and its reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons. Recently, the public has seen the extent of US-Israel cooperation – both overt and covert. It has been reported that our two countries have taken numerous joint operations to disrupt Iran’s efforts and, in the words of President Obama, “we remain committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”



A nuclear-armed Iran would be an existential threat to the Jewish State, as well as threaten the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans in the region, all of Iran’s Arab neighbors and the world’s largest oil supplies and those who rely on that oil. Iranian nuclear weapons would also provide anti-US terrorists with access to the most lethal Iranian technology and would likely set off a nuclear arms race in the region. The consequences of a nuclear armed Iran would be catastrophic and we have no better ally than Israel in our fight to prevent the deranged Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from achieving his dream of nuclear weapons.
 
The idea of starting US aid to Israel at zero is hurtful to the safety and security of Israel and undermines America’s national security interests. Now is a time to build on our unprecedented US-Israel defense and intelligence alliance even further, not weaken it. Gingrich, Romney and Perry should know better.
 
The writer is in his eighth term in the US House of Representatives. He serves on the House Appropriations Subcommittees on Defense; and State and Foreign Operations, which appropriate all spending for the United States military and foreign aid, respectively.

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