FACT CHECK: Dem senator says the majority of ‘foreign military financing’ goes to Israel


Brad Sylvester, DCNF

Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen claimed that more than half of the money the U.S. allocates for “global foreign military financing” goes to support Israel.

Image: Israel Defense Forces, Wikimedia

Verdict: True

The U.S. provided Israel with nearly 51 percent of the $6.1 billion in foreign military grants that Congress allocated for fiscal year 2018.

Fact Check:

Van Hollen made the claim while voicing his opposition to the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 on the Senate floor.

On free speech grounds, he opposed a provision that would allow state and local governments to cut ties with American businesses that participate in boycotts against Israel.

Van Hollen said that he supports a primary goal of the legislation – to codify $33 billion in military assistance to Israel across 10 years – and called it an “important investment.”

“That’s a lot of money when you consider the many priorities we have here at home and abroad,” he said Jan. 29. “In fact, more than one half of our entire global foreign military financing, the security assistance we provide to all of our partners and allies around the world, goes to Israel.”

The senator was referring to the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program, which distributes grants to U.S. allies for American military equipment and services.

For FY 2018, Congress funded the program at $6.1 billion. Israel received $3.1 billion, or nearly 51 percent of the funds, and Egypt received $1.3 billion. Nearly $500 million was appropriated for countries in conflict and to combat Russian influence, and the remainder was allocated among other U.S. allies.

“These grants enable key allies and friends to improve their defense capabilities, and foster closer military relationships between the United States and recipient nations,” reads the State Department’s website. “Increased military capabilities build and strengthen multilateral coalitions with the United States; and enable partner nations and allies to be increasingly interoperable with U.S., regional, and international military forces.”

The U.S. has been contributing to the Israeli military for decades, as the two country’s strategic interests have historically been aligned.

“Israel is a critical military and intelligence ally of the U.S., and one that helps stabilize the Middle East while working to advance American interests,” Michael Koplow, policy director for the Israel Policy Forum, told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an email. “Aside from working alongside the U.S. to combat terrorist groups and contain Iranian ambitions for regional hegemony, Israel has also been a port of call for American naval vessels and is the most reliable potential safe harbor should the U.S. ever need to use Israeli territory as a base for regional operations.”

Since the end of World War II, no other country has received more foreign assistance from the U.S. than Israel, the overwhelming majority of which comes in the form of military aid, according a Congressional Research Service report. Today, about 19 percent of Israel’s defense budget comes from FMF grants.

The U.S. provides Israel with military assistance in order to help it sustain a “qualitative military edge” over other countries in the region. It’s expected that Israel will receive $3.3 billion in FMF grants in FY 2019 as part of a 10-year, $38 billion aid deal the U.S. signed with Israel back in 2016.

The agreement included $5 billion in missile defense funds for programs like Iron Dome.

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