Billions of dollars: how US provides Israel with military aid

An Israeli F-35 warplane performs during an air show near the southern city of Beer Sheva on June 29, 2023 (JACK GUEZ)
An Israeli F-35 warplane performs during an air show near the southern city of Beer Sheva on June 29, 2023 (JACK GUEZ)

The United States has approved the sale of tens of millions of dollars in military equipment to aid Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza, and the close defense ties between the countries date back decades.

But the civilian death toll from nearly six months of Israeli bombardment and ground operations in Gaza is rising and the humanitarian situation is catastrophic, piling pressure on President Joe Biden to impose conditions on military aid.

Below, AFP examines recent arms shipments to Israel as well as the history of military assistance from Washington to its closest ally in the Middle East.

- Recent 'emergency' sales -

Hamas launched a devastating attack on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of about 1,170 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Since then, the United States has approved sales of tank and artillery munitions to Israel on two occasions late last year under an emergency provision that waives the usual congressional review.

In the first instance, Washington approved the $106.5 million sale of nearly 14,000 rounds of 120mm tank ammunition and related items to Israel, while in the second, it signed off on a $147.5 million sale of 155mm high-explosive artillery munitions and related equipment.

But public announcements are not required for less valuable purchases, and according to the Washington Post, Biden's administration has approved more than 100 such smaller sales to Israel since October.

Israel's retaliatory campaign against Hamas -- in which it has employed US weapons -- has killed at least 33,037 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.

- Decades of military aid -

The "emergency" sales to Israel are in addition to regular aid -- free of charge -- that the United States has provided for decades.

This assistance has armed Israel with advanced weapons systems including F-35 warplanes, and also funded the Iron Dome air defense system to shield against rocket attacks.

According to the Council on Foreign Relations think-tank, Israel has received more some $300 billion in military and economic aid since its founding in 1948, adjusted for inflation.

Israel is the "largest cumulative recipient of US foreign assistance since World War II," and received "significant economic assistance" from 1971 to 2007, according to a 2023 report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

Since then, almost all aid has been military, CRS said -- $3.8 billion in 2021, $4.8 billion in 2022 and $3.8 billion in 2023.

In those years, additional funding for missile defense came on top of the baseline figure of $3.3 billion.

Under an agreement that runs through 2028, the baseline $3.3 billion is provided in the form of foreign military financing, which can be used for the purchase of US military equipment, services and training.