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    Middle East
     Jul 28, 2006
Israel's star-spangled arsenal
By Frida Berrigan and William D Hartung

Much has been made in the US media of the Syrian- and Iranian-origin weaponry used by Hezbollah in the escalating violence in Israel and Lebanon. There has been no parallel discussion of the origin of Israel's weaponry, the vast bulk of which is from the United States.

The US is the primary source of Israel's far superior arsenal. For more than 30 years, Israel had been the largest recipient of US foreign assistance, and since 1985 Jerusalem has received about

US$3 billion in military and economic aid each year from Washington. US aid accounts for more than 20% of Israel's total defense budget.

Over the past decade, the US has transferred more than $17 billion in military aid to this country of just under 7 million people.

Israel is one of the United States' largest arms importers. Between 1996 and 2005 (the last year for which full data are available), Israel took delivery of $10.19 billion in US weaponry and military equipment, including more than $8.58 billion through the Foreign Military Sales Program, and another $1.61 billion in direct commercial sales.

During the administration of US President George W Bush, from 2001 to 2005, Israel received $10.5 billion in foreign military financing - the Pentagon's biggest military aid program - and $6.3 billion in US arms deliveries. The aid figure is larger than the arms-transfer figure because it includes financing for major arms agreements for which the equipment has yet to be fully delivered. The most prominent of these deals is a $4.5 billion sale of 102 Lockheed Martin F-16s to Israel.

Given the billions of dollars of aid it provides to Israel every year and the central role of US-supplied weaponry in the Israeli arsenal, the US has considerable leverage that it could use to promote a ceasefire in the current conflict between Israel and Hezbollah before more Israeli and Lebanese civilians are killed and displaced.

President Bush needs to go beyond vague calls for "restraint" to demands for a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah, bringing in other key actors in the region, including Iran and Syria.

William D Hartung is author of Tangled Web 2005: A Profile of the Missile Defense and Space Weapons Lobbies and a senior research fellow at the New School, where Frida Berrigan is a senior research associate. Both are Foreign Policy In Focus scholars.

(Posted with permission from Foreign Policy in Focus )

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