Despite the polarizing partisanship that dominates US political discourse, military aid to Israel is one of the few programs that has virtual universal support among US lawmakers. Why is this one of the few programs that receives widespread bipartisan support?

This 30 billion dollars of aid, provided to Israel over the course of 10 years, requires that the US spend a mere fraction of its annual budget (well under one percent of total spending). In return, the American people receive unquestionably large benefits.

Israel is America’s best ally in the Middle East, and this aid has been used to improve the strength of the IDF. A strong Israel has helped to support US national security interests without sending US soldiers into combat. In other words, America has kept many of its troops out of harms way and simultaneously secured its strategic interests.

Israel’s ongoing fight against Islamic terrorist groups, which actively target US civilians, is one of the most impressing success stories of US security assistance to Israel. Between 2008-2009 the IDF launched Operation Cast Lead against Hamas, and a similar operation in 2006 was initiated against Hezbollah. If Israel does not have the necessary resources to combat Islamic terrorism, then the effects could be devastating for the United States. It may even drag America into another war.

In the cases of Hamas and Hezbollah, the US could be forced to deploy troops into both the Gaza Strip and Lebanon to safeguard American national security. However, if US military aid to Israel is maintained, then the likelihood of such a scenario dramatically decreases.

The costs of another Middle Eastern war, which would be a disaster for the United States, should be enough of a reason to keep the security assistance. Both Democrats and Republicans are trying to achieve economic recovery, yet multiple wars against various terrorist groups would increase defense spending, widen the budget deficit, and hurt economic growth.

Furthermore, a militarily weaker Israel may increase the likelihood of war between the US and various enemy states in the region. For instance, states like Iran have been deterred until now to close the Strait of Hormuz, a waterway where large amounts of the world’s petroleum is traded. However, a weakening of America’s best ally in the region may lead Iran to change its mind and to close the strait.

This would leave the United States with a unbearable choice; should it initiate a war against Iran and spend hundreds of billions of dollars, or should it allow the closure of the strait and deal with a massive surge in oil prices? Both of these scenarios could bring America back into a recession, and possibly reopen old economic wounds that had originally induced the financial crisis.

The possibility of a nuclear armed Iran also shows the necessity of US-Israel security cooperation. The most recent round of negotiations between western powers and Tehran had shown that a possible Israeli military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, combined with crippling sanctions, had nearly forged a diplomatic compromise that almost brought a peaceful end to Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

If the US continues to transfer weapons to Israel to pressure Tehran, then Iran may calculate that the costs of attaining a nuclear weapon are greater than the benefits and renounce its program altogether.

Additionally, approximately 75% of this aid must be spent within the United States, so countless Americans have a job because of this international transfer of military equipment. An elimination, or even a reduction in this aid, would raise the unemployment rate among one of the most skilled sectors in the American workforce.

This aid’s contribution to American national security and economic growth is compelling, yet these benefits are also justified by a moral imperative. Unlike other recipients of US aid, which are often autocratic and dictatorial regimes, Israel shares common values with the United States. Israel continues to be the only democracy in the Middle East, and the ethos of the country is based on the key values of gender equality, religious tolerance, and freedom of expression.

If bipartisanship is dead, then US security cooperation with Israel is a clear exception to the rule. As America navigates through a recovering economy and a tumultuous Middle East, it is becoming clear that this aid will stay in place for a very long time. It may be America’s best investment to date.

This writer is the President of TorchPAC, the Pro-Israel Political Organization at New York University. You can email him at michael.harris@nyu.edu.

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