Contradictory claims of total dollar figures for U.S. foreign aid circulate around the Internet, containing oft-repeated figures that may or may not reflect reality. In response to those conflicting claims, WND has compiled a list of significant U.S. aid totals based on a review of congressional and Obama administration documents and databases.
As the debate often focuses on whether the U.S. receives, in financial parlance, an adequate return on its investment, WND decided to first focus on arguably the world's greatest hot spot, the Middle East/North Africa, or MENA, home to three of the top 10 recipients of U.S. assistance: Israel, Egypt, and Jordan.
Though the aid totals are significantly less for Saudi Arabia and Gaza/West Bank, we have included them due to the role that the Saudis and Palestinians play on the MENA world stage.
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Unless otherwise indicated, the data is gleaned from the federal database via ForeignAssistance.gov and from Congressional Research Service, or CRS, "Background and U.S. Relations" reports (CRS reports are made publicly available courtesy of the Federation of American Scientists.)
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The U.S. has committed more than $4 billion in bilateral assistance since the 1990s, when limited Palestinian self-rule began.
While Israel remains the largest recipient, dollar-wise, of U.S. dollars, Palestinians "are among the world's largest per capita recipients of international foreign aid," CRS points out.
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The administration FY 2014 request seeks $440 million for the West Bank/Gaza, nearly half which it would devote to Education and Social Services ($202 million).
The remainder is slated for Economic Development ($70 million), Health ($53 million), Democracy, Human Rights and Governance ($50 million), Peace and Security ($45 million), and Humanitarian Assistance ($20 million).
"The achievement of a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a core U.S. national security objective which is central to American interests in the Middle East," according to the Congressional Budget Justification FY 2014.
This aid hopes to promote three major U.S. policy priorities: preventing terrorism against Israel from Hamas and other militant organizations; fostering stability, prosperity, and self-governance in the West Bank that inclines Palestinians toward peaceful coexistence with Israel and a "two-state solution" and meeting humanitarian needs.
These priorities since June 2007 have "crystallized" as a result of the "geographical and factional split" between the Fatah-led and U.S.-supported Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and "the de facto regime led by Hamas in Gaza."
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Hamas, the reports emphasizes, "receives support from Iran along with substantial non-state support and has been designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), a Specially Designated Terrorist (SDT), and a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) by the U.S. government."
Despite Internet-based claims that the administration is funneling millions to Hamas, federal restrictions on providing funds to the organization cast doubt that the group is, at least directly, a recipient of such assistance.
Indeed, as CRS points out, annual spending bills routinely contain a variety of mandatory vetting, or advance clearance, processes as well as the imposition of strict "conditions, limitations, and restrictions on U.S. aid to Palestinians."
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No aid, for example, is allowed to go to "Hamas or Hamas-controlled entities," CRS says.
Similarly, the U.S. cannot make aid available "for the purpose of recognizing or otherwise honoring individuals who commit or have committed acts of terrorism."
Aid likewise is forbidden if the PA decides to share power in a government "that includes Hamas as a member" or gives Hamas "undue influence."
Exceptions to that restriction may be made "if the president certifies that the PA government recognizes 'the Jewish state of Israel's right to exist'" in addition to "previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements."
U.S. assistance does indeed reach Gaza, but is limited to the support of projects carried out by private contractors and nongovernmental organizations tasked with carrying out those endeavors, CRS says.
Oversight of such programs is reflected in "executive branch reports and certifications, as well as internal and Government Accountability Office (GAO) audits" whose aim it is to prevent U.S. aid "from benefitting Palestinian terrorists or abetting corruption."
A GAO report released last month did not indicate problems with the enforcement of these restrictions; however, it reiterated congressional concerns expressed in recent years, particularly the PA's signing of "a reconciliation agreement with Hamas that could lead to a unity government."
It noted that various congressional committees in response to that agreement "placed holds on most of the fiscal year 2011 funds for the West Bank and Gaza." Some of those holds have since been released and the U.S. Mission "began obligating those funds in April 2012."
No mention was made, however, to an administration initiative seeking to draw tourists away from Israel and keep them in Gaza and the West Bank.
As WND reported in 2011, literally days after Hamas militants rained rockets on Israeli civilians, USAID alerted contractors to an endeavor whose aim was to have Christian pilgrims stay longer – and thereby spend more money – in Palestinian territory rather than in Israel.
One year later, WND uncovered details of a USAID plan to infuse another $300 million into West Bank and Gaza construction projects, which the administration explicitly described as critical in attaining the "success of a future Palestinian state."
Israel remains the top foreign aid recipient within the Obama administration's FY 2014 request: $3.1 billion, all which falls under the category of Peace and Security. It mirrors the FY 2013 request.
The total amount of U.S. assistance to Israel, however, is not fully reflected in the ForeignAssistance.gov database.
As the CRS report "U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel" points out, Congress via the FY2013 Continuing Resolution approved – separate from $3.1 billion in Foreign Military Financing, or FMF, and $15 million for Migration and Refugee Assistance – another $480 million "in joint U.S.-Israeli missile defense programs."
That separate total included $211 million for the Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system, $150 million for David's Sling – a "short/medium-range system designed to counter long-range rockets and slower-flying cruise missiles… such as those possessed by Hezbollah in Lebanon, as well as by Syria."
It also encompassed $75 million for Arrow III and $44 million for Arrow II, both ballistic missile-interceptor projects.
The resolution likewise called on DOD and State "to explore with their Israeli counterparts and alert Congress of any requirements the Israeli Defense Force may have for additional Iron Dome batteries, interceptors, or other equipment depleted during the recent conflict with Hamas-controlled Gaza."
The U.S. Department of Defense's FY 2014 request via the Missile Defense Agency is $96 million for Israeli Cooperative Programs, which includes $53 million for Arrow III, $33 million for David's Sling and $11 million for Arrow II. DOD separately is requesting $220 million in "Defense-wide funds for Iron Dome."
Sequestration could decrease FMF to Israel "up to an estimated $155 million," CRS says. "Likewise, rocket and missile defense funding to Israel may be sequestered up to an estimated $37.41 million."
The report, submitted to Congress in June, emphasized that the calculations "are estimates only."
The final FY2013 total "remains unclear" since the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. Department of Defense "could reprogram additional amounts of aid to Israel in order to compensate for lost funding as a result of sequestration."
Maintaining Israel's "Qualitative Military Edge," or QME, over its regional neighbors and enemies historically has provided justification for significant U.S. assistance, CRS says.
Current and future security threats exist due to Iranian nuclear ambitions, "Islamist-led or influenced Arab states" that stir up anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli sentiments, and "instability and terrorism" from ungoverned or minimally governed spaces along Israel's borders.
Despite the continued provision of military aid to deter region-wide conflicts that largely have been avoided over the past 40 years, "Economic conditions in the United States and Israel may affect future U.S. aid to Israel," CRS says.
"With the prospect of prolonged fiscal austerity in the United States, overall American public support for foreign aid may diminish in the years ahead."
The Obama administration's FY 2014 budget request for Egypt is $1.56 billion. That total primarily is categorized under Peace and Security initiatives ($1.3 billion), with the remainder slated for Economic Development ($129 million), Education and Social Services ($63 million), Democracy, Human Rights and Governance ($28 million), Health ($16 million) and Environment ($15 million).
A CRS report cites a similar FY 2014 request total; however, rather than using the category Peace and Security, it simply refers to that particular amount as Military Aid, with the remainder ($250 million) listed as Economic Aid.
Among other U.S-Egypt assistance programs that WND recently reported is a USAID plan to help Egyptians get more out of their college educations.
The administration is pursuing this endeavor because Egyptian higher-education institutions struggle to "produce graduates with the skills employers seek, posing constraints for growth opportunities, particularly in high skilled economic sectors."
U.S. interests in Egypt "include maintaining U.S. naval access to the Suez Canal, maintaining the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty, and promoting democracy and economic growth within Egypt, the region's largest Arab country," the CRS report says.
Despite publishing that report prior to the Egyptian military's removal of President Mohamed Morsi, CRS foresaw that U.S. diplomatic opportunities "may be overshadowed by disruptive political trends that have been unleashed by the so-called Arab awakening and allowed for more expression of anti-Americanism, radical Islamist politics, antipathy toward Israel, and sectarianism."
Specific to State and U.S. Agency for International Development aid to Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Congressional Budget Justification FY 2014 says that the administration's $671 million request is justified because "Jordan is a strong U.S. ally in a turbulent region that, despite its relative stability, faces a number of critical, immediate challenges of its own.
"The country is host to large numbers of refugees from Syria at a time when the lingering effects of the worldwide fiscal crisis, regional instability, and other pressures have created increased strain on Jordan’s economy…"
The administration hopes to leverage this assistance "to deepen the partnership with Jordan to promote comprehensive regional peace and combat terrorism."
CRS takes it a step further, asserting that the Jordanian government "remains arguably the most reliable partner for the United States in the Arab world."
Despite Jordan's participation in past regional wars against Israel, it signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994 after concluding that peace "was in Jordan’s strategic interests due to Israel's conventional military superiority."
Jordan likewise seeks peaceful resolution in its support of an "independent Palestinian national movement."
The absence of such a resolution has "threatened both Jordanian and Israeli security," a particular concern to Jordan as there about "1.9 million United Nations-registered Palestinian refugees in Jordan," many of whom maintain "hope of being included in any future settlement."
The administration consequently seeks to provide Jordan with aid under the categories of Peace and Security ($311 million), the bulk of which is slated for Stabilization Operations and Security Sector Reform ($304 million) and the remainder devoted to Counterterrorism ($5 million) and Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction ($1.7 million).
Other categories include Economic Development ($233 million), Education and Social Services ($56 million), Health ($36 million), Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance ($28 million, and Environment ($7 million).
Whereas much of the assistance is made possible via USAID programs, the U.S. also provides Jordan with cash assistance "to service its foreign debt," CRS says.
Despite the expressed desire to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, King Abdullah II has repeatedly emphasized that the U.S. must pressure Israel to accept a two-state solution.
Abdullah II earlier this year in a joint press conference during Obama's visit to Jordan, said "There is simply no other formula, no other alternative.
The two-state solution is the only way to go. And if you compare that also with the radicalization of Syria, together with the impasse in the peace process, this is going to be a serious threat to an already volatile region," he said.
Jordan regularly participates in joint military exercises and training with the U.S., and has deployed thousands of military, law enforcement, and health professionals in support of U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as U.N. peacekeeping operations around the world, CRS notes.
The administration has proposed giving $10,000 in FY2014 direct aid to Saudi Arabia. The administration sought that amount last year and slightly less the year before. In the years immediately prior to those, annual requests had fluctuated while staying in the low hundreds of thousands.
The $10,000 aid figure specifically is for International Military Education and Training for Saudi Arabia. According to CRS, "This nominal amount makes Saudi Arabia eligible for a substantial but undisclosed discount on the millions of dollars of training it purchases through the Foreign Military Sales program."
The actual amount of assistance to Saudi Arabia remains unclear, however, as the U.S. has numerous mechanisms in place to assist the Saudis in other ways.
No itemized costs could be found that detail U.S. expenses in the arrangement and processing Foreign Military Sales and other contracting actions.
The U.S. Air Force, for instance, this week issued a revised Request for Information from industry in the potential procurement of cyber-protection services and facilities for the Royal Saudi Air Force's F-15 IT upgrade program.
"Official U.S. concerns about human rights and religious freedom in the kingdom persist, and some members of Congress have expressed skepticism about Saudi leaders' commitment to combating religious extremism and sharing U.S. policy priorities in the Middle East and South Asia," CRS says.
"However, Bush and Obama administration officials have referred to the Saudi government as an important regional partner in recent years, and U.S. arms sales and related training programs have continued with congressional oversight."
Although it receives literal bilateral aid from the U.S., Saudi Arabia is a major buyer of U.S. military hardware.
Among other arrangements that CRS notes, "In October 2010, Congress was notified of proposed sales to Saudi Arabia of dozens of F-15 fighter aircraft, helicopters, and related equipment and services, with a potential value of $60 billion."
The Obama administration, "like its predecessors, has engaged the Saudi government as a strategic partner in efforts to promote regional security and global economic stability."