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Why the presidential candidates won't talk about Israel

Analysts say politicians hold their tongues on giving additional US aid to Israel for fear of being labeled as anti-Semitic.

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Israel, celebrating its 60th birthday last week, has proved to be an expensive ally for the United States.

Since its birth, Israel has received at least $114 billion from the US in direct foreign economic and military aid, says Shirl McArthur, a retired US diplomat who periodically updates his Israel cost estimates for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (WREMA), a magazine often critical of US policy toward Israel.

That estimate, Mr. McArthur notes, is conservative. For instance, he has not factored inflation into that $114 billion cumulative sum. The late Washington economist Thomas Stauffer did that calculation several years ago. He found total official aid to Israel, up to 2002, came to $247 billion. He added other costs of US support of Israel (interest on debt, higher oil prices, etc.) to reach a highly controversial total of $1.6 trillion.

For comparison, the cost to the US of the Iraq war is running about $144 billion a year.

In March, a Memorandum of Understanding from the White House to Congress urged an additional $30 billion in military aid to Israel, a sum spread at about $3 billion a year through fiscal year 2018. Currently, Israel ranks as the top recipient of American foreign aid ($2.4 billion in 2007 by an official calculation) if reconstruction money for Iraq is excluded. Next are Egypt ($1.8 billion) and Afghanistan ($1 billion).

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