US Foreign Aid Policy to the Middle East

Subject: Politics & Government
Pages: 6
Words: 1513
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: Bachelor


Foreign aid plays a major role in promoting the US foreign policy aspiration in the Middle East. The US has several major interests in the Middle East, ranging from the support of the Israeli government and its peace with neighboring Arab countries, especially Palestine, safeguarding the crucial oil supplies, and its rigorous fight against extremists/ terrorists (Jeremy, 2010). US foreign aid helped to maintain peace between Israel and Egypt and the stability of a number of Middle East nations with Israel. US foreign assistance to the Middle East has also helped to stabilize and strengthen the Palestinian government (Burnside & David, 2000).

Since the attack of the US on September 11, the US has established new programs covering the entire Middle East that are geared towards enhancing democracy and promoting social and economic reforms in these countries in order to destabilize and eliminate forces of extremism in some of these Arab nations (Jim, 2010). In spite of the dynamism in the geopolitical situation, the US foreign assistance to the Middle East historically has been based on the security threat the region poses to itself and to the US and its allies. The US has been pursuing a foreign policy that aims at stabilizing the region, which rich in energy resources but is viewed as the most volatile region in the world (Lensink & Howard, 2001).

US has been using foreign aid as leverage of promoting peace between Israel and its neighbors while at the same time promoting the mutual relationship between the US and Israel and between the US and the moderate Arab nations such as Syria and Egypt. Foreign aid has helped to bolster close military cooperation between the US and the region, discouraging these nations from taking part in disorderly arm races. Economic assistance has had a fundamental strategic foundation since these funds have been used to enhance development and to eliminate extremism among these societies (Rhoda, 2006).

The level at which US foreign aid has contributed to its goals in the Middle East is hard to evaluate, but the consensus among the political analysts is that US economic and military assistance has played a major role in Israel security, stability in Egypt, and the close alliance between Jordan and US.

The pledge of US aid to Israel and Egypt during the late 70s helped those nations to overcome the risks in achieving peace among themselves, and this might have helped them to convince their people that the US was committed to their peace initiative. Therefore, Israel and Egypt have been the major US aid beneficiaries. However, the US has development programs in other Arab nations in the Middle East, including the unstable Palestinian government (Jeremy, 2006).

People who are known to be US aid policy Critics in the Arab countries are of the opinion that the foreign aid from the US is the cause behind volatility and anxiety in the region. Arab politicians insist that US military aid to the Israeli government is the reason behind Palestinians suffering. Other critics claim that US foreign aid strengthens oppressive regimes that have the same interest as the US. The term US foreign aid policy is ambiguous, accusing the US of strengthening its cooperation with despotic regimes through military aid while at the same time supporting liberalization in the region with fewer resources devoted to improvement and development assistance (Lensink & Howard, 2001).

Definition of foreign Aid

The typical definition of foreign aid originated from the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. They defined foreign aid as economic flows, technical assistance, and supplies that are meant to enhance economic development and social welfare of the recipients, and these are provided information of grants or financial support such as subsidized loans (Alberto & David, 2000). This definition excludes military assistance or other none developmental assistance. From the historical perspective, foreign aids are given as direct bilateral assistance by one country to another. Donors also offer indirect multilateral assistance by pooling resources together from different quotas. One of the major donor institutions is the IMF and the World Bank, and others such as the continental development banks and the UN agencies (Alberto & David, 2000).

US Aid in the Selected Middle East Nations

US foreign aid to the Middle East has been mainly financial and military assistance. The major beneficiaries of the US aid include Egypt, Israel, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine. Israel is the largest recipient of US aid since World War II. It is well known that the extraordinary support that is given to the government of Israel by the US cannot be given to any other country. For instance, Israel is permitted to use US military assistance for research and expansion in the US and for military purchase. Besides, the US foreign aid for Israelis is usually delivered very promptly in the first month of the fiscal year while the rest receive these aids in staggering installments at different rates annually (Jeremy, 2009).

In the year 2007, President Bush announced that the US was planning to increase its military aid to Israel by about $6 billion over the next ten years. Analyst in the military predicts that the increase in US military aid to Israel will enhance the potential purchase of high-tech weapons and equipment by Israel. A tactful US congress is also known to have supported the Israeli government in upgrading its security and also maintaining advanced technological ways, thus being ahead of their neighbors. Israel is entitled to excess defense aid according to article 516 of the US foreign aid policy in the Middle East (Jeremy, 2009).

Egypt is the second-largest recipient of US foreign aid to the Middle East, receiving up to $2 billion in economic and military assistance. However, the US has been reducing their economic aid to Egypt over the last ten years, and many analysts believe this assistance could be phased out in the coming years. This is because of the treaty signed between Egypt and Israel under the American watch. The Egyptian policymakers are also seeking ways to graduate themselves from the US assistance, which is based on conditions following the rapid expansion of their economy (Jeremy, 2006). The US has been offering both military and economic aid to Jordan since 1951. The total amount of aid the US has given Jordan since then to the year 2009 totals $11 billion. However, the rate of assistance is never constant and has always depended on Jordan’s security threat, their political differences, and global restrictions on foreign aid funding (Jeremy, 2010).

Since 1993 when the two governments signed the Oslo accord, the US government has spent over $3 billion in bilateral economic aid to the Palestinians (West Bank/Gaza). According to US law, only the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are entitled to US aid unless the US president presents a waiver to Congress, citing that it is of great importance to the national security. The Law only allows full aid to the whole Palestinian in case Hamas joins the government to form a unity government and acknowledges the existence of Israel, and stick to the international agreements signed by the two countries (Jim, 2010).

The US also contributes about 20-25% of the United Nations Relief and Work Agency’s total budget. UN Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) provide the basic necessities for the many Palestinian refugees of the late 40’s war between Arabs and the Israeli government. The US donation to the UNRWA originates from the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance account and the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance account. U.S. is the largest donor to this agency and only comes second to the EU. However; the UNRWA fund is not treated as bilateral economic aid to the Palestinians (Rhoda, 2006).


US lawmakers fear that the foreign assistance from the UNRWA could end up in the hands of Hamas, who are now controlling the Gaza strip. Hamas is regarded as a terrorist group or supporting other terrorist organizations in the global black book. The ban by the US congress to supply aid to the entire Palestinian nation is also affecting the needy citizens who have found themselves in the wrong territory. Some of the US foreign military and economic aid has also found their route into the hands of Terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah. The rebuilding of Iraq following the war against Saddam Hussein’s government cost the US billions and billions of dollars coupled with the global financial crisis, and this has affected the US foreign aid policy to the Middle East significantly. In addition, most of these Middle East Nations are safe haven terrorism groups, and criminals.US government needs to restructure their foreign policy in the Middle East o cover both their short term and long term goals. It is only through bolstering the governments of the weaker Middle East states that the US government will be able to achieve its goal in the Middle East. Through these governments, they will be able to fight the extremist groups and provide services to all the needy persons without restrictions.


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Burnside, C., & David, D. (2000). Aid, Policies, and Growth. American Economic Review, 90, (4), pp. 847-68.

Jeremy M.S. (2006). Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations RL33546.

Jeremy M. (2009). Sharp, U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel. CRS Report RL33222.

Jeremy M. (2010). Jordan: Background and U.S. Relations. CRS Report 522246

Jim, Z. (2010). U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians. CRS Report RS22967.

Lensink, R., & Howard W. (2001). “Are There Negative Returns to Aid?” Journal of Development Studies, 37 (6), pp. 42–65.

Rhoda, M. (2006). United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). CRS Report RS21668.