State of the Facts
The United States approved over $3.8 billion in foreign assistance to Israel in 2019, the most recent year of complete data. About $8.5 million of that aid went towards the economy, and the remainder went to the Israeli military. This is part of the 10-year, $38 billion Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2016. It is the third agreement of its kind, following two signed during the George W. Bush and Clinton administrations. The agreement supports updating the Israeli aircraft fleet and maintaining the country's missile defense system. The deal provides $500 million in missile defense funding and $3.3 billion in other military funding per year from 2019 to 2028.
The United States has granted between $46 billion and $57 billion in inflation-adjusted foreign aid to countries and organizations worldwide annually since 2010. Due to reporting constraints, these figures exclude missile defense funding from the Defense Department like the funds granted to Israel. In 2019, the $47.2 billion approved in aid accounted for just over 1% of total federal spending.
Israel’s $3.3 billion was the second largest amount of aid in 2019 after Afghanistan, which received $4.9 billion. The two countries received 7% and 10%, respectively, of all foreign aid granted that year. Around $14.1 billion of worldwide assistance was for military purposes, 23% of which went to Israel and 26% to Afghanistan.
Israel cumulatively received $243.9 billion in inflation-adjusted US foreign assistance between 1946 and 2019, making it largest recipient of American foreign aid since World War II.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) defines foreign assistance as support “freely provided by the US government to a foreign government or international organization” without reciprocation. While foreign assistance can be money or commodities, “it also includes the provision of technical assistance, capacity building, training, education, and other services, as well as the direct costs required to implement foreign assistance.” The USAID does not report missile defense funding from the Defense Department as part of its data.
The USAID classifies foreign aid as military or economic. Military aid is primarily for the benefit of government armed forces. Economic aid supports broad economic development and sociopolitical stability and can include non-military support related to security. Most of the aid the United States grants is economic.
The United States approved a record amount of economic aid in 1949 — the equivalent of $68.6 billion in current dollars. Most of that went to Western European economies as part of the Marshall Plan in the wake of World War II. The United Kingdom, France, and Germany each received over $10 billion in economic assistance in 1949. The United States granted $33.1 billion in economic aid in 2019. That was up 91% compared to 2000 but down 52% compared to 1949.
The most military aid approved in one year was in 1952 as part of the Mutual Security Act, the successor to the Marshall Plan. The funds bolstered US anti-communism efforts during the Cold War. The largest shares of military aid in 1952 went to France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, the United Kingdom, and the former Yugoslavia.
The $14.1 billion in military aid the United States approved in 2019 was up 89% compared to 2000. It was down 60% compared to 1952.
Israel has been in the top five aid-receiving countries — excluding aid to international organizations or broadly associated with regions — every year since 1971. It was one of the top two recipients for aid for all but four years since 1974.
Israel was one of the top five recipients of economic aid between the late 1970s and early 2000s.
The first 10-year Memorandum of Understanding signed in 1999 phased out economic aid to the country as its economy strengthened, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS).
In the early 2000s, economic aid to Israel mostly covered financial policy and administrative management, with additional money for material relief assistance, technological research and development, research and scientific institutions, health care, and other areas.
Since 2000, over 70% of annual American aid to Israel has funded military efforts. In 2019, a record 99.7% of the $3.3 billion in US aid to Israel was for its military. Annual foreign military assistance from the United States represents about 20% of the Israeli military budget, according to the CRS.
Afghanistan, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq were the top countries receiving American aid in 2019. The United States also provided $1.7 billion in foreign assistance to support the Middle East in addition to aid to specific countries.
The CRS reports that part of the aid dynamic in the Middle East and North Africa is the American strategy of maintaining Israel’s “qualitative military edge” over neighboring countries. This approach involves giving Israel first access to — or more advanced versions of — US defense technology. It also offsets military sales to its neighbors with increased weapons packages or military aid to Israel. The strategy became law in the Naval Vessel Transfer Act of 2008, which prohibited defense exports to non-Israeli countries in the Middle East that would hurt Israel’s military advantage.
Top five recipients of US assistance obligations in 2019, by type
Most 2019 foreign aid to Jordan and Iraq was economic. About 27% of total aid to Jordan went to its military that year. Total foreign aid to Israel was twice that for Jordan in 2019; military aid to Israel was more than seven times what the Jordanian military received.
The last time Jordan received more military aid than economic was in 2007. Fifty-four percent of its $486 million in aid went to its military that year. The share of military aid to Iraq has varied in recent years. In 2019, 19% of US foreign aid to the country was for its military. In 2018, 62% of US aid to Iraq was military.
Jordan and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1994. Iraq does not recognize the state of Israel.
Egypt put 89% of the almost $1.5 billion in American aid towards military purposes in 2019. Military aid to the country began in 1978, the same year as the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt. The accord led to the Egypt-Israel peace treaty of 1979. Military aid to Israel in 2019 was two and a half times greater than military aid to Egypt.
Learn more about American foreign affairs and military and defense activity.
Inflation-adjusted data shown here uses constant 2019 dollars as reported by USAID. This inflation adjustment differs slightly from inflation adjustments used elsewhere at USAFacts.
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