Dan Shapiro: Military assistance to Israel also serves U.S. interests

Halie Soifer, executive director of JDCA, said that it was important to host the conversation to understand better where Democrats stand on Israel.

November 10, 2019 10:41
2 minute read.
Dan Shapiro


WASHINGTON – Ensuring that Israel has capabilities to defend itself against regional threats serves Israel’s interests, but also serves the United States’ interest, says former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro.

Speaking in a conference call hosted Friday by the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA), Shapiro addressed the discussion within the Democratic Party about conditioning aid to Israel as a leverage to change the government’s policies.

“There is an enormous amount of sharing of intelligence,” said the former ambassador. “Israeli intelligence has high-quality technology; Israeli technology is high quality; joint training – our forces training with Israel and learning from them as they learned from us. Benefits and this relationship flow both ways. And so, in that regard, the US assistance program to Israel is not an act of altruism. While it is certainly generous on the part of the American taxpayers, and we should feel good about it, and it has saved many lives particularly with programs like Iron Dome, it is also something that very much serves our interests.”

Asked about the argument of candidates (such as Pete Buttigieg) about conditioning aid as a form to make sure Israel is not using funds to promote the annexation of the West Bank, Shapiro said that most of the money is being used to deal with regional threats.

“At the beginning of the fiscal year, the funds are provided to Israel,” he said. “And almost all those funds go into long-term purchases of major US military systems. F-15, F-16, F-35, various helicopter platforms, tanks various munitions. The vast majority material is really aimed to counter not threats that emerge from the Palestinian arena – although somewhat you could argue from Gaza – but from Syria, Lebanon, Hezbollah, Iran, the further future threats and certainly the missile defense programs also fall very much into that category. So the notion of this assistance being kind of means of implementing an annexation policy – there’s really not a direct connection, simply not the way we generally calculate how our foreign aid is conducted.

“We certainly can and should advocate and be vocal and use various forms of leverage agents but by no means the only form of leverage to try to have countries not do things that we deem not to be in our interest,” he continued. “But that is not generally how we’ve calculated it to say that because we were providing funds for one activity [it] supports a different activity.”

Halie Soifer, executive director of JDCA, said that it was important to host the conversation to understand better where Democrats stand on Israel.

“With the 2020 election less than a year away, we are already seeing more Republican attempts to misrepresent where Democrats stand on Israel and ongoing attempts by the president and others to use Israel as a political wedge issue,” she said. “These efforts have underscored the importance of understanding the facts about where Democrats stand on Israel and current dynamics affecting the US Israel relationship, including the future of the US aid to Israel. This is a critically important role that JDCA is playing, refuting false narratives with facts, including about where candidates and elected officials stand on Israel.”

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