The United States exported to Israel a substantial amount of the same types of weapons Israel is using to kill Gazans, a new analysis of US Census Bureau export data reveals. For example, in 2013, the United States sent Israel at least $196 million in parts for military airplanes and helicopters, a category that includes F-16 fighter jets and Apache helicopters, both of which Israel is currently using to attack Gazan homes, offices and farmland. Between January and May 2014, the United States had already exported $92 million in parts for military airplanes and helicopters.
The military airplanes and helicopters that the United States sent comprise the largest category, in dollar terms, of all weapons exports to Israel that are publicly available via the US Census Bureau (see charts).
The United States also sent Israel parts for armored fighting vehicles and ammunition cartridges. For example, between January and May 2014, the United States exported $39 million in parts of armored fighting vehicles, a category that includes M109 Doher Howitzers, which Israel has used against targets in Gaza. As for the ammunition cartridges, the United States shipped well over $9 million of these during the same time period.
Even as the US government claims to want to broker a ceasefire, it continues facilitating weapons exports to Israel. On July 14, the same day President Obama vowed that "We're going to continue to do everything we can to facilitate a return to the 2012 ceasefire," the State Department approved a possible $544 million sale of AIM-9x sidewinder missiles and associated support services to Israel. These missiles can be used by F-16s to hit ground targets.
Official US military aid to Israel stands at about $3 billion per year due to a 10-year, $30 billion military aid package originally signed by former President George W. Bush and upheld under President Obama. This figure doesn't, however, include the $504 million in funding dedicated to missile defense.
Truthout asked Andrew Feinstein, former Member of Parliament in South Africa and currently an Open Society Institute fellow, to elaborate on the accuracy of official aid estimates. He replied:
In reality, published military aid figures tend to be significant understatements. "Official" military aid figures tend to be the obvious direct aid given for military purchases, which usually have to be purchased from the donor country. They tend to exclude various other forms of aid that are linked to defense, such as training; maintenance, repairs and spare parts funding; research and development support; weaponry for special actions; black ops payments (as used, for example, to arm the mujahedeen in Afghanistan for many years); internal security funding; and a range of unspecified funding from a variety of departments.
Israel is the only country allowed to use its US military aid to build its domestic military industry, a privilege that includes developing indigenous weapons systems based on US designs and using US grants to purchase materials, as well as research and development, from Israeli firms. Additional US funds are spent on joint military research and production. Israel also enjoys "fast-track" status for weapons sales, meaning it can make deals directly with manufacturers in the US without having to go through the Pentagon.
The billions of dollars in US military aid to Israel have bought a stunning array of US weapons and military hardware for the IDF, including 226 F-16 fighter jets, more than 700 M-60 tanks, 6,000 armored personnel carriers, scores of transport planes, attack helicopters and utility and training aircraft, not to mention innumerable bombs and tactical missiles of all kinds.
Israel has come under criticism for bombing medical facilities and news media buildings, and also for its failure to prevent civilian casualties. Truthout asked Richard Falk, former UN special rapporteur on Palestinian human rights, what he thought an appropriate response from the international community might be. He replied:
[Israel] shows no sign of respecting the wishes of the international community at this time for an immediate ceasefire. So I think that the only way the world can show that it's at all serious about protecting vulnerable peoples - in this case the Palestinians - would be to impose an arms embargo.
Falk also pointed out that the US weapons exports to Israel violate the Arms Control Act of 1976. "There's no legal, political or moral argument that would uphold the claim that Israel is acting in legitimate self-defense," Falk said. "Gaza, from an international law point of view, is not a foreign state, but an occupied territory. It's not clear that you can exercise self-defense in relation to a territory that you are responsible for administering in accordance with international humanitarian law."
The United States also provides substantial weapons aid to Egypt's new military regime, led by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has exacerbated the crisis in Gaza. Sisi, who rose to power after a military coup in July 2013, quickly oversaw the destruction of approximately 80 percent of tunnels running between Gaza and Egypt. These tunnels are an economic lifeline for Gazans, who rely on them for medicine, fuel, food and other necessities; furthermore, an estimated 40 percent of the Gazan government's revenue flows through these tunnels. The destruction of the tunnels is thought to be contributing to serious shortages of medical supplies and crucial medicines, since Israel's bombing of Gaza began on July 8. During Israel's 2012 offensive the tunnels served as an important way for medical supplies to be brought into Gaza.
"The Sisi government is determined to destroy the Muslim Brotherhood and they view Hamas as an extension of the Brotherhood," Falk said. "So [the Sisi government is] in a certain way on the same side as Israel on this particular confrontation."