Israel’s Hefty Military Might Heavily Reinforced By US Weapons – Analysis

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The ongoing battle between Israel and Hamas is overwhelmingly one-sided—the most powerful military in the Middle East, armed with some of most sophisticated and state-of-the-art American weapons systems vs a ragtag guerrilla force armed largely with shoulder-borne rocket launchers, mortars, drones and small arms.

Adding more to its devastating firepower, Israel is also the only nuclear power in the Middle East, joining the ranks world-wide of UK, the US, France, Russia and China, along with India, Pakistan and North Korea.

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week warned Hamas to “Get Out Now”, he vowed to unleash “the full force of Israel’s military”.  

But that military might originates largely in the United States, which has provided billions of dollars in American weapons, funded mostly with military grants, credits and financing.

Zain Hussain, a Researcher in the Arms Transfers Programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) told IDN US foreign policy towards Israel involves the supply of foreign military financing (FMF) and arms to Israel.

There is a 10-year bilateral military aid memorandum between the US and Israel, which commits the US to providing Israel with USD 3.3 billion in Foreign Military Financing, and to spend USD 500 million every year in joint missile defense programs between FY2019 and FY2028.

The US, he said, is committed to helping Israel uphold its qualitative military edge and does this through long-term commitments for military aid and cooperation, and supplying arms in times of conflict. 

In an analytical piece on 13 October,  Elias Yousif, a Research Analyst with the Washington-based Stimson Center’s Conventional Defense Program and Rachel Stohl, Vice President of Research Programs and Director of the Conventional Defense Program, point out that Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. military assistance since the Second World War, amounting to more than $158 billion over the past seven decades—not adjusted for inflation.

$3.3 billion in annual US financing to Israel

In recent years, U.S. assistance to Israel has been outlined in a 10-year memorandum of understandings, the most recent of which was signed in 2016 and pledges $38 billion in military assistance between FY2019-FY2028.

Though U.S. security assistance to Israel takes many forms, the largest portion comes through Foreign Military Financing (FMF), which are grants to support the purchase of U.S. defense articles and services.

The current MOU commits the United States to $3.3 billion in annual FMF to Israel, the largest routine FMF package the United States provides on a yearly basis and which alone represents approximately 16% of Israel’s defense budget.

According to SIPRI, US arms supplies to Israel between 2013 and 2022, include the following:

Aircraft (including fighter planes and combat helicopters):

·    F-35 Stealth multirole fighter/combat aircraft – Estimated 36 delivered.

·    F-15A/C Eagle F-15E Strike Eagle combat aircraft – Estimated delivery of 9 between 2013 and 2023 (estimated delivery of 115 in total). 

Before 2013, there were some imports of relevant aircraft which are either of importance or may currently be being used by Israel:

·    Boeing AH-64 Apache combat helicopter – Estimated 63 delivered. 

·    S-70 Black Hawk – We have confirmed deliveries of 49 Black Hawk transport helicopters.

·    F-16A/C/I Fighting Falcon – Estimated 362 delivered.

Missiles and bombs:

·    JDAM guided bombs – Estimated almost 9000 delivered between 2013 and 2022 (total estimated 18000)

·    Small Diameter Bombs – estimated 7500 delivered (estimated total of 9000 overall)

Other missiles delivered before 2013 which are still of interest are AGM-114A/K/L the Hellfire missiles (estimated 1455 delivered)

Armored vehicles:

·     M-113 Armored Personnel Carriers – approximately 300 delivered between 2013 – 2022 

·     Namer Armoured Personnel Carriers/Infantry Fighting Vehicles – estimated 386 delivered between 2013 and 2022

Regarding drones, Israel’s own drone capabilities are very advanced. Israel’s arms industry continues to supply Israel with air defense weapons, artillery, and advanced rocket launchers, among other important capabilities, said SIPRI’s Hussain

According to Yousif and Stohl of the Simson Center, Israel also has unique privileges in using its FMF funding. Israel is eligible for “Cash Flow Financing,” which allows it to use FMF to finance multiyear purchase without having to pay for acquisitions entirely up-front.

Israel has also been permitted to spend FMF appropriations on Israeli weaponry, a practice that is being phased out in the current MOU but has historically pumped hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars into the Israeli defense industry.

Israel is also permitted to use FMF to purchase armaments directly from U.S. manufacturers using the direct commercial sales process, and also enjoys expedited Congressional review periods for its arms packages.

In addition to FMF, Israel also receives U.S. assistance for joint missile defense development. The current MOU pledges $5 billion over the life of the arrangement for various missile defense programs that are often developed or produced with U.S. firms.

This includes investments in Israel’s much-vaulted Iron Dome short-range air defense system and other longer-range platforms like Arrow II, Arrow III, and David’s Sling. Between FY2006 and FY2023, the United States has appropriated more than $8.6 billion for various U.S-Israeli missile defense programs.

Maintaining Israel’s “qualitative military edge” 

Beyond the direct support the United States provides to Israel, U.S. regional security cooperation is also aimed at maintaining Israel’s “qualitative military edge,” (QME) a term which refers to the technical sophistication of Israel’s defense equipment vis-à-vis its neighbors.

Although initially an informal commitment, successive administrations and Congressional actions have codified U.S. support for Israel’s QME, including measures like allowing Israel first regional access to U.S. defense technology or more advanced versions of systems provided to other regional partners.

In a statement issued before 17 October, the devastating bombing of a hospital in Gaza killed over 500 patients and civilians, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said the situation in Gaza had reached a dangerously new low.

The horrific terror attacks by Hamas on Israel that killed more than 1200 people and injured thousands more last Saturday were followed by intense bombardment of Gaza that has already killed 1800 people and injured thousands more, he said.

After days of airstrikes, the Israeli Defense Forces have ordered the Palestinians in Gaza City and its surroundings to move to the south of the territory.

Moving more than one million people across a densely populated war zone to a place with no food, water, or accommodation when the entire territory is under siege is extremely dangerous—and in some cases, simply impossible.

Guterres said hospitals in the south of Gaza are already at capacity and will not be able to accept thousands of new patients from the north.

“The health system is on the brink of collapse. Morgues are overflowing; eleven healthcare staff have been killed while on duty; and there have been 34 attacks on health facilities in the past few days,” he warned on 13 October.

Thalif Deen

Thalif Deen, author of the book “No Comment – and Don’t Quote Me on That,” is Editor-at-Large at the Berlin-based IDN, an ex-UN staffer and a former member of the Sri Lanka delegation to the UN General Assembly sessions. A Fulbright scholar with a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Columbia University, New York, he shared the gold medal twice (2012-2013) for excellence in UN reporting awarded by the UN Correspondents Association (UNCA).

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