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Trump complains that ‘we give Israel $4.5 billion a year’ and more

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President Trump complained about how much the U.S. gives Israel, during a briefing with reporters in Iraq last night:

Q. About the criticism that, by leaving Syria, you might increase jeopardy for Israel, how do you respond?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I don’t see it.  And I spoke with Bibi.  I told Bibi.  And, you know, we give Israel $4.5 billion a year.  And they’re doing very well defending themselves, if you take a look.

But we’ll be there for Israel.  We’ll always be there for Israel.  I’m the one that moved the embassy to Jerusalem.  You know, nobody was willing to do that.  All these Presidents came and went.  They all said they will do it.  They never did it.  Many, many Presidents said they were going to move the embassy to Jerusalem.  They never did it; I did it.  Big difference.

So that’s the way it is.  We’re going to take good care of Israel.  Israel is going to be good.  But we give Israel $4.5 billion a year.  And we give them, frankly, a lot more money than that, if you look at the books — a lot more money than that.  And they’ve been doing a very good job for themselves.

It appears Trump is confused about the number. The U.S. gives Israel $3.8 billion a year in military aid. Though Israel had sought $4.5 billion a year, per the Times.

This is not the first time Trump has complained about all the money we give Israel. During the 2016 campaign, he said that Israel should pay for American defense, just as he had called on South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia to do. “I think Israel will do that also, yeah, I think Israel do—there are many countries that can pay and they can pay big league.”

Bret Stephens of the New York Times differs with Trump’s assessment. In his column yesterday he wrote that Trump has been very bad for Israel because he’s brought on neo-isolationist policy with his withdrawal of troops from Syria.

If you think the gravest immediate threat to Israel is jihadist Hezbollah backed by fundamentalist Iran backed by cynical Russia, the answer is no [he is not good for Israel]…

if you think that the ultimate long-term threat to Israel is the resurgence of isolationism in the U.S. and a return to the geopolitics of every nation for itself, the answer is more emphatically no.

(Stephens also says it’s an “invidious myth” that neoconservatives put Israel first.)

Stephens treats the tearing up of the Iran deal and the move of the embassy as, What have you done for me lately? This is another example of Israel lobbyists and neocons getting jaded with overindulgence. Last month Ido Aharoni, a former Israeli ambassador, said it was nice that Trump moved the embassy, but that hasn’t changed any Israeli’s quality of life. What Trump really needs to do is waive the visa requirement for Israelis to the U.S. That would make a flight to the U.S. like a “domestic flight.”

P.S. I have heard a number of mainstream reporters characterize the Syria plans as “isolationist.” As if the only way of being engaged globally is to have troops in a Muslim country, for years, and naturally prompting calls to end our occupation.

Thanks to Terry Weber and Yakov Hirsch.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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32 Responses

  1. CigarGod on December 27, 2018, 12:20 pm

    Santa Trump:

    “As you know, I put $4.5 billion dollars under Israel’s Christmas tree every year, and what do we get for it? Nothing!
    Then, I moved the Nativity to Jerusalem, and what did we get for it? Nothing.
    They invented the Hamburger with tomoato slices over there…a lot of people don’t know that, and after everything I’ve done for them they never even sent me one burger.”

  2. JLewisDickerson on December 27, 2018, 2:29 pm

    RE: “But we give Israel $4.5 billion a year. And we give them, frankly, a lot more money than that, if you look at the books — a lot more money than that.” ~ Trump

    SEE: Israel “free” trade agreement delivers $144 billion deficit to US | by Grant F. Smith | Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy (IRMEP)
    LINK –

  3. Kay24 on December 27, 2018, 10:47 pm

    Suddenly, Trump is seeing our top recipient of charity and aid, in figures, and a waste of dollars. He must be ranting about it privately. He is mentally translating it to how much wall he can build with all that money…ha ha. I find it really funny.

    • Citizen on December 28, 2018, 1:00 am

      Me too; I tweet to him regularly about it.

    • Misterioso on December 28, 2018, 10:06 am

      @kay24, et al

      Worth noting:

      “Trump Tweeted His Way Out Of Syria. Will He Blindside Israel Too?” Forward, by Abe Silberstein, December 20, 2018.

      “President Donald Trump’s abrupt decision to announce the withdrawal of 2,000 American personnel from Syria immediately provoked reactions comparing his approach to Syria to President Obama’s:

      “’Mr. Trump’s view that American forces cannot alter the strategic balance in the Middle East, and should not be there, was fundamentally shared by his immediate predecessor, Barack Obama,’ wrote David Sanger in the New York Times.

      “Although somewhat simplistic overall, there is a great deal of truth to the Obama-Trump comparison here. Trump, like Obama, does not believe there is a promising role for American hard power in the Middle East, and certainly not in a gargantuan mess like Syria’s civil war.

      “But where Obama at least provided a more or less consistent policy of ‘softer’ American engagement in the Middle East compared to his predecessor, and thus predictable for allies, Trump has been erratic.

      “No one should miss Obama now more than Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who badly miscalculated by heavily investing in Trump. He must now absorb a major American policy decision that will primarily benefit Iran, Turkey, Russia and perhaps Islamic State. And the worries don’t end there.

      “Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump expressed frustration and indignation over the alleged freeloading of allies, including Saudi Arabia.

      “He talked of not honoring America’s commitment to NATO; encouraging nuclear proliferation to replace American treaty commitments; and, of course, appeasing rather than confronting Russia’s irredentist designs.

      “That Trump decided he had enough of Syria, even if that meant acting in defiance of his entire national security team and issuing a dubious declaration of victory against Islamic State, is not a surprise in the context of his broad foreign policy worldview.

      “Trump only values foreign relations to the extent they bring financial benefits to the United States or himself.

      “Israel, with the value it has brought Trump in terms of votes and campaign contributions, should have been in the perfect position to lobby against this withdrawal, hints of which had been floating around Washington for quite some time.

      “Trump, for his part, had promised Israel a more favorable relationship with the United States under his administration.

      “Indeed, by removing the United States from the Iran nuclear agreement and unilaterally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Trump had seemingly committed himself to a closer relationship with Israel than he had with other allies.

      “Instead of offering a measured positive response, Israel’s government responded ebulliently to Trump’s election and subsequent policies. Netanyahu went as far as to support President Trump’s plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border; more recently, Israeli officials came to the defense of Trump against Jewish critics following the Pittsburgh terror attack in October.

      “Israel now has little recourse except to privately plead with Trump, which is not at all guaranteed to work. The histrionics Netanyahu engaged in during the Obama administration – speeches to Congress, thinly-veiled support for the President’s opponents, public denunciations – are not an option here. This is not the administration of Obama, Kerry, and Hagel, but of Pence, Bolton, and Haley.

      “Worse, it’s not just Syria that Israel is worried about. The government is reportedly worried that Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century,’ set to be released any week or month now, will not be as generous as they’ve been led to believe.

      “A senior Israeli official told Al-Monitor that the plan includes a more-than-nominal future capital for the Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

      “This, too, should not have come as a surprise to Israel. Trump’s Middle East team has seen Saudi Arabia as key to promoting their peace plan in the Arab world, including nudging the Palestinians into making concessions on right of return.

      “But despite the close relationship between the administration and Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, the Kingdom’s de facto leader, there was never a chance the Saudis could support an agreement that would be seen as extremely unfair to the Palestinians.

      “While we don’t know for sure what the contents of this framework will be, it will sink or swim depending on how it’s received in the region.

      “Netanyahu may soon regret the obsequious support he showed Trump. The impulsive President may have decided to pull out of the Iran agreement and to harm the legacy of President Obama and recognize Jerusalem to reward Evangelicals for their support, but he does not appear willing to consider Israel’s interests when they interfere even slightly with his own.

      “The interests of allies, including Israel, were not enough to dissuade Trump from removing troops from Syria. Will Israel be able to convince the President to walk away from his ‘ultimate deal,’ which will have the stamp of his own family (Jared Kushner) on it?

      “At least with President Obama, the parameters of its approach were always predictable and in line with establishment foreign policy thinking. Israel had time to consider its options and mobilize its supporters. Now it’s in the dark and, thanks to Netanyahu, may be forced to make policy concessions it successfully avoided during the Obama administration.”

      • Kay24 on December 28, 2018, 7:37 pm

        A very interesting perspective. Trump does not hesitate to throw anyone under the bus, if they happen to be in his way, it would be interesting to see if this Trump thought bubble, is going to take root and make it harder for crooked Bibi. Will Trump in his madness open that door for the Palestinians?

    • Mooser on December 28, 2018, 1:09 pm

      “I find it really funny.”

      Oh yes. That “Israel is doing a good job” is very ominous. Very ominous. Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin.

  4. RoHa on December 27, 2018, 11:10 pm

    I don’t see a complaint in the quoted remarks.

    • Mooser on December 28, 2018, 1:12 pm

      “I don’t see a complaint in the quoted remarks.”

      Take a look at any one of the Trump firing and pre-firing or cabinet-resignation Tweets.

      • RoHa on December 28, 2018, 7:57 pm

        No! Anything but that!

        If you know what makes the remarks count as complaints, please tell me, but I beg you, on bended creaky knee, don’t make me read tweets.

    • Boris on December 28, 2018, 1:32 pm

      Me neither.

      I see only admiration…

      • Mooser on December 28, 2018, 2:55 pm

        “I see only admiration…”

        Of course you do, and why not? You must go along with whatever Trump does. Trump owns Israel.
        It’s the only thing he does own, but he owns it lock, stock and barrel.

      • eljay on December 28, 2018, 2:58 pm

        || Boris: Me neither.

        I see only admiration… ||

        Same here. I suppose it’s no surprise that Trump admires Israel and Saudi Arabia – birds of a feather that know how to stroke his massive ego.

      • Mooser on December 28, 2018, 3:22 pm

        “Trump admires Israel and Saudi Arabia – birds of a feather…”

        Well, there is a big difference, “eljay”. Saudi Arabia didn’t promise victory in the Congressional mid-terms, and then not deliver.

      • eljay on December 28, 2018, 6:48 pm

        || Mooser: “Trump admires Israel and Saudi Arabia – birds of a feather…”

        Well, there is a big difference, “eljay”. Saudi Arabia didn’t promise victory in the Congressional mid-terms, and then not deliver. ||

        This would seem to indicate that Israel is worse than Saudi Arabia and that’s simply not possible.

        Y’see, Israel is a “moral beacon”, a “light unto the nations”, a “Western-style democracy” and a “progressive paradise” and, as such, it can only be less bad than / not quite as bad as Saudi Arabia.

        THERE! I’ve run rings around you logically.

  5. Misterioso on December 28, 2018, 9:12 am

    A reminder:

    “Media Ignore Largest Foreign Military Aid Package in US History” If Americans Knew Blog, Nov. 29/18 By Alison Weir

    “Congress is about to legislate the largest military aid package to a foreign country in U.S. history, but U.S. media aren’t telling the American public.

    “Israelis know about the money, and Israel partisans are pressuring the one lone Senator opposing it, but apparently U.S. news organizations don’t think the general public needs to know…”

    “In an astounding case of media negligence, U.S. news media are failing to tell Americans that Congress is about to enact legislation for the largest military aid package to a foreign country in U.S. history.

    “This aid package would likely be of interest to Americans, many of whom are cutting back their own personal spending.

    “The package is $38 billion to Israel over the next ten years, which amounts to $7,230 per minute to Israel, or $120 per second, and equals about $23,000 for each Jewish Israeli family of four. A stack of 38 billion one-dollar bills would reach ten times higher than the International Space Station as it orbits the earth.

    “And that’s the minimum – the amount of aid will likely go up in future years.

    “The package was originally negotiated by the Obama administration in 2016 as a ‘memorandum of understanding (MOU),’ which is an agreement between two parties that is not legally binding.

    “The current legislation cements a version of that package into law – and this version is even more beneficial to Israel. Among other things, it makes the $38 billion a floor rather than a ceiling as the MOU had directed.”


    “Congressional Research Service, U.S. Foreign aid to Israel, Jeremy M. Sharpe, Specialist in Middle East Affairs, April 10, 2018.”

    “Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. To date, the United States has provided Israel $134.7 billion (current, or non inflation-adjusted, dollars) in bilateral assistance and missile defense funding. Almost all U.S. bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance, although in the past Israel also received significant economic assistance. At a signing ceremony at the State Department on September 14, 2016, representatives of the U.S. and Israeli governments signed a new 10-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on military aid covering FY2019 to FY2028. Under the terms of the MOU, the United States pledges to provide $38 billion in military aid ($33 billion in Foreign Military Financing grants plus $5 billion in missile defense appropriations) to Israel. This MOU replaces a previous $30 billion 10-year agreement, which runs through FY2018.”

    • James Canning on December 28, 2018, 6:04 pm

      Great post. Reporting by US news media on the heavy subsidy to Israel borne year in and year out by the American taxpayers, is nearly nonexistent. We of course know the reason, or reasons, for this suppression of a highly important topic.

  6. Boomer on December 28, 2018, 9:45 am

    Trump’s number of $4.5 billion may have been an error, but it may have been based on a broader analysis than military aid. Historically, much of the U.S. aid has come in the form of loan guarantees (and loan forgiveness), and special tax deductible status for various charities that benefit Israel, Israeli bonds, etc. It’s difficult to keep up with all that. The Congressional Research Service has done some analyses (not always for the public), and CBO, but I don’t know what the most recent reports say. There are some tabulations by independent scholars, think tanks, etc. for those inclined to research it further. Whatever the current number is, it certainly would be more than $3.8 billion. And that’s not counting the value of the U.S. veto routinely used for Israel at the UN (and the ill will garnered for the US), the value of US military deployments for the benefit of Israel, etc.

    Trump likes some aspects of Israel: he recently tweeted that its wall is “99.9% effective.”

  7. Tuyzentfloot on December 28, 2018, 11:03 am

    This military aid is of a very self-serving type, since a large part has to be used to buy american weaponry. Richard Cummings , author of the 2007 article ‘Lockheed, Stock and two Smoking Barrels’ described in the Scott Horton show (audio only)how Lockheed would get representatives like Tom Delay to push for increasing military aid to Israel, and this aid would then be used to buy Lockheed stuff.

    • oldgeezer on December 28, 2018, 12:50 pm


      Whether the aid is selfserving or not is not a relevant issue to the fact that Israel gets billions in freebies which are then used to perpetrate human rights abuses and crimes against humanity.

      Support for the MIC is not the overriding, or primary, motivation as that could be accomplished quite easily without giving away money, or equiv, to a rogue state.

      • Tuyzentfloot on December 28, 2018, 1:54 pm

        It is relevant. The number of 3.5 to 4.5 billion is constantly used in support of the claim that we’re spoiling Israel. It’s not that significant .

      • oldgeezer on December 28, 2018, 5:04 pm


        Your first argument was that the aid was self serving. Now you’ve moved onto that it’s not significant.

        Well it’s in the range of 18%-25% of Israel’s military budget. That’s significant.

        Close to half of US foreign military aid. That’s significant.

        That the money is going to a rogue state perpetrating international crimes and crimes against humanity for over half a century is extremely significant.

        More economic activity and job creation would likely come from remediating Detroit’s water supply.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius on December 28, 2018, 4:04 pm

      American ‘aid’ to Israel comes with way fewer strings attached than does aid to any other nation. And Trump was actually quite right in saying that the figures generally given don’t come close to the total amount of ‘aid’.

      Then of course there’s the question as to why Israel needs ‘aid’ at all. It’s a comparatively wealthy country. It has its own booming arms industry. It boasts of being ‘start-up nation’. Plus, I thought the whole point of Israel was that at long last the Jews would be independent of those evil Gentiles. So why is Israel getting even a cent of ‘aid’ at all? Can’t ‘start-up nation’ pay its own way?

      • Eric on December 28, 2018, 6:39 pm

        Says Tuyzentfloot:
        It is relevant. The number of 3.5 to 4.5 billion is constantly used in support of the claim that we’re spoiling Israel. It’s not that significant .

        If that’s the case, please urge your Congress persons and Senators to oppose and vote against this “not that significant” aid to the Zionist war machine. And to endlessly filibuster if necessary. It takes a unique nation and unique supporters of that nation to get lottery-level welfare payments each month and then bitch that it’s chump change.

      • RoHa on December 28, 2018, 7:59 pm

        American aid to Israel is rather like the aid the Mafia receives from the people it gives “protection” to.

      • RoHa on December 28, 2018, 8:05 pm

        “lottery-level welfare payments each month and then bitch that it’s chump change.”

        If that money could be (as it should be) sent to the RoHa family instead, we would not complain very much.

      • Tuyzentfloot on December 29, 2018, 4:54 am

        American ‘aid’ to Israel comes with way fewer strings attached than does aid to any other nation.

        Sure, I don’t mind the claim that Israel is being pampered and spoiled, I just think that the argument of the 4 billion aid package is overrated. Well, overrated in the sense that it doesn’t help Israel that much by itself. Not overrated in the sense that it underscores the general pattern: clearly weapons manufacturers know that a very easy way to make a quick buck is to say it’s for supporting Israel.

  8. James Canning on December 28, 2018, 12:13 pm

    Trump clearly is correct in stating the withdrawal of US troops from Syria will not endanger Israel.

  9. Maximus Decimus Meridius on December 28, 2018, 4:10 pm

    “Stephens treats the tearing up of the Iran deal and the move of the embassy as, What have you done for me lately? This is another example of Israel lobbyists and neocons getting jaded with overindulgence.”

    It’s very easy to see what Israel gets out of its ‘relationship’ with the US. The reverse, however? Not quite so easy.

    Imagine if US support of Israel were ever to become an election issue, debated as frankly and openly as any other issue. Imagine if Israeli interference in US affairs were fretted over half as much as alleged Russian interference. I suspect that if it were up to the public to decide if they wanted to endlessly ‘support’ Israel and ask for basically nothing but a throbbing headache in return, politics would be rather different.

  10. rensanceman on December 28, 2018, 9:37 pm

    Brett Stephens: “it is an invidious myth that neoconservatives put the interest of Israel first”. I believe “the Project for a New American Century” written by Perle, Wurmser, and Faith—neoconservatives all—advocated for destruction of Israel’s neighboring countries. Since 9/11, the U.S. has vigorously led the charge in destroying Libya, Syria, Iraq, with Iran in the crosshairs. It would be safe to assert that our foreign policy of late has not been guided by our national interest, but rather for the benefit of Israel.

  11. wondering jew on December 29, 2018, 2:29 am

    It’s unclear to me what role the US should play in the world. Because I prefer to get a clearer picture of that future role, Trump’s withdrawal from Syria is “interesting” rather than horrifying. I’m not sure when the next war with Lebanon/Hezbollah will take place and it is difficult to foresee how this withdrawal will play in the next phase of Israel versus Hezbollah, so I cannot say that this is without risk, but my primary reaction is “interesting”.

    • Mooser on December 29, 2018, 7:36 pm

      ,” so I cannot say that this is without risk, but my primary reaction is “interesting”.”

      “Yonah”, can’t you say anything more definite than that? All the major markets are easily spooked by confusion.

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