Foreign Policy

Israeli perspective on foreign aid

Andrew Gelman Jun 23 '11

Alex Tabarrok writes:

Shimon Peres gave a press conference . . . When asked about foreign aid, specifically foreign aid to some Arab regimes he had this to say (again a paraphrase from my notes, the clever lines are his, the order may have changed somewhat and this is incomplete).

Look, the West can’t help everyone and the regimes would be insulted if we tried. But they don’t need our help. The greatest poverty in our time has been in China and India. Did these countries reduce poverty because of our help? No. They did it themselves.

Giving is problematic. We take money from poor people in rich countries and give it to rich people in poor countries. Aid sometimes creates corruption.

The part of this that puzzles me is the line, “they don’t need our help.” I always thought that Israel was a net recipient of foreign aid, not a net donor. So shouldn’t Peres be saying, “we don’t need your help”?

Or maybe there’s something I’m missing here. According to the Congressional Research Service, “Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. From 1976-2004, Israel was the largest annual recipient of U.S. foreign assistance, having since been supplanted by Iraq. Since 1985, the United States has provided nearly $3 billion in grants annually to Israel.” But I can’t so easily find a number for how much Israel gives to other countries.