Where does Israel get its weapons?

World Today

The United States and Israel have an important relationship, including when it comes to military aid. CCTV America’s Jim Spellman joined us for part of the story.

Where does Israel get its sophisticated weapons from?

The United States and Israel have an important relationship when it comes to military aid. CCTV's Jim Spellman joins me with that part of the story.

There is little doubt that Israel has vastly superior military capabilities over Hamas militants in Gaza. Israel has in its possession some of the most advanced state-of-the-art military aircraft.

Israel gets most of its weapons from the U.S. Since the 1940s, the United States has given more foreign aid to Israel than any other country in the world. This year, about $3.1 billion — plus an additional $504 million — was given in aid to Israel’s missile defense, including the Iron Dome system the country uses to knock down Hamas rockets.

By U.S. law, it is about far more than Israel’s ability to defend itself: The goal of U.S. military aid is to ensure Israel has a so-called Qualitative Military Edge, or QME. It’s defined by Congress as:

“The ability to counter and defeat any credible conventional military threat while sustaining minimal damage and casualties, through the use of superior military means, possessed in sufficient quantity,”

America hopes this aid to Israel’s military contributes to stability in the region.

“There’s no doubt that they serve as a balancing act in that part of the world,” said Douglas Smith, a former U.S. Homeland Security official. “Iran knowing Israeli capabilities and knowing that we have Israel’s back definitely helps tap things down.”

Once every four years, the U.S. is required to file a classified assessment of Israel’s QME. Israel is allowed to help create that report, working closely with U.S. intelligence officials. And, in addition to the weapons Israel buys with U.S. money, it has access to a stockpile of American weapons — up to $1.2 billion worth — that the U.S. stores in Israel.

It last tapped into this stockpile in 2006 when battling Hezbollah in Lebanon, and again earlier this week the U.S. allowed Israel access to replace mortar rounds and other ammunition. On the other side in Gaza, the situation is murky — Hamas militants struggle to get arms from a variety of sources. For many years, arms to Hamas were supplied by Syria. With the situation in Syria disrupted, Hezbollah has been a big funder of Hamas.