How You Can Turn $1,000 into $14 Billion for Israel

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If you could give $1,000 and turn it into $14 billion for Israel, wouldn’t you?  If you could prevent anti-Israel/antisemitic candidates from getting elected to Congress, wouldn’t you?  Well, you can!

In the first month following October 7th, American Jewry raised over $1 billion for Israel.  Since then, the generosity and donations have continued.  While incredibly important and certainly impactful, the current amount of donations to Israel is a small fraction of what is needed to fight this war, to address the economic impact of it, and to fund the expense of recovery from it.


Since the inception of the modern state, Israel has been dependent on United States support.  Indeed, Israel has been the largest cumulative recipient of US aid since its founding, having received about $300 billion (adjusted for inflation) in total economic and military assistance. 


Of course, America’s commitment to Israel’s military superiority is not a favor or a gift, it is in the United State’s security interest.  As the only liberal democracy in the Middle East that shares values and foreign policy interests, a strong, intimidating Israel is an American interest.  The United States has an expanding military base in Israel but in some ways, all of Israel serves as a US presence in a complicated and dangerous region of the world, one that threatens American values and Americans themselves. In a Republican Presidential debate, Nikki Haley put it well when she said, "The last thing we need to do is to tell Israel what to do. The only thing we should be doing is supporting them in eliminating Hamas. It is not that Israel needs America. America needs Israel."


There is no doubt that the US military aid to Israel is significant but often unappreciated is that most of the aid, approximately $3.3 billion a year, is provided as grants that Israel must use to purchase U.S. military equipment and services.  In other words, American gives billions of dollars to Israel that Israel must spend buying military equipment from America, stimulating the American economy while helping Israel.


While we long for a time that Israel is financially, politically and security independent, currently, US aid accounts for about 15 percent of Israel’s defense budget. Moreover, from a foreign policy standpoint, Israel relies on America providing diplomatic cover at the UN and elsewhere.  While there are greater steps Israel can take to gain independence in these areas, that dependance reality is part of the galus we still find ourselves in and, given Israel’s relatively small size, it is hard to believe that will change entirely before Moshiach comes. 


The cost of replenishing munitions to continue to eliminate Hamas in Gaza and the expense of being prepared for a prolonged war in the north are enormous.  It is for that reason the Senate just passed a special $14.1 billion aid package for Israel.  While it passed 70-29, there were Democrats and Republicans who voted against it and it still needs to pass the House where it may well encounter resistance.


Bernie Sanders voted against the aid and said, "As I have said many times, Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas' terrorism, but it does not have the right to obliterate an entire people."


Peter Welch of Vermont opposed the package saying, "I have always supported the free, secure, and democratic State of Israel. I still do. The Netanyahu government's destruction of Gaza won't make Israel more secure or more free."


Jeff Merkley of Oregon explained why he voted against the aid, saying, "I cannot vote to send more bombs and shells to Israel when they are using them in an indiscriminate manner against Palestinian civilians." 


Only 22 Republicans, less than half of the membership, voted in favor of the aid package, likely more to do with the allocation to Ukraine and their concern regarding the dangers of an unsecured US border, but their votes are still troubling. 


Here is the bottom line.  For better or worse, Israel needs American support more today than it has since the Yom Kippur war and American support for Israel is less of a given than it has been perhaps since Israel’s inception. 


Since October 7th, American Jews have been working to find our place in this war.  Certainly davening, learning, financial support, visits and missions are important, they matter and make a difference.  But, what has not been as widely focused on or emphasized is our role in ensuring formal, state-sanctioned US support for Israel.


While soldiers are fighting on the front lines of Gaza and the North and every Israeli is holding down the fort on the front lines of everyday life, our front line in America is urging, advocating and using our support to positively influence US-Israel policy. 

Here are some things we can, and must do:

·   Political Giving: Recently, AIPAC shifted strategy significantly and, through their PAC, now rate, endorse and financially support pro-Israel candidates.  In the last election, this effort helped defeat 13 candidates who would have undermined the US-Israel relationship.  AIPAC has created a tool called the Detractor’s Fund to push back against The Squad and those who seek to isolate and undermine Israel in Washington by funding candidates looking to defeat detractors of Israel in Congress.  Please contribute any amount - - and be part of determining who determines US policy towards Israel.  The money you spend supporting candidates can be the difference of $14 billon of aid to Israel.  Where else can you get that kind of return?


·      Advocacy: AIPAC, ZOA, OU, and Agudah regularly send out action alerts asking people to send emails and make calls to lobby for different pieces of legislation having to do with Israel.  Don’t unsubscribe, delete the email, or assume someone else will take the time because you are too busy.  Stop what you are doing, spend a few moments taking action and make your voice heard. Congressional staff keep an account of how many calls and emails they get supporting and opposing proposed legislation.  Even those representatives who will certainly vote with Israel need to be contacted to express gratitude and appreciation.  Your emails and calls matter, take the time to make and send them. 


·        Primaries: Due to gerrymandering, the overwhelming majority of Congressional districts are predominantly Republican or Democrat, and there are relatively few genuine swing districts.  That means most elections are decided in the primary.  Don’t ignore primary elections and stay home. No matter your true political affiliation or identification, register with the majority party in your district so that you qualify to vote in the primary and can influence who will vote in Congress. You can still vote for either party’s candidate in the general election but by registering with the majority party you ensure you will have a say in the election that is more likely to determine the ultimate member of Congress.


When Yaakov confronted Esav he prepared in three ways – prayer, gifts and war.  Our brothers and sisters in Israel are fighting this war.  We can and must contribute the prayer and gifts/contributions.


The war with Hamas is not Israel’s war alone.  Defeating evil, defending our homeland, is the responsibility of every Jew.  There is much work to do fighting for Israel in the US. This is our front line and each of us is being called upon to serve faithfully.  Soldiers in Israel are asked to be willing to sacrifice their lives.  Their families are sacrificing with severely disrupted lives.  Our sacrifice is to give the time it takes to make a phone call and send an email and the cost of being considered for contributing to a campaign. 


In Israel, they have reported to reserve duty at over 100%.  Will we report to fulfill our duty?