October 19, 2011

The Oct. 18 Fine Print column by Walter Pincus, “U.S. must reevaluate its assistance to Israel,” was woefully misguided.

Our support for Israel is both moral and strategic. Assistance to Israel demonstrates to its enemies that the U.S. commitment to the Jewish state is unwavering; cutting that assistance would send the opposite message. This is especially important during a time of tremendous turmoil in the Middle East, and when Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas conspire daily to undermine U.S. and Israeli interests.

A strong and secure Israel serves U.S. national security interests in the Middle East. U.S. aid to Israel has helped deter major conflict in the region — conflict that would be very costly for us in many ways — by making it clear to potential enemies that they cannot defeat Israel.

Our assistance also gives Israel the confidence it needs to take risks for peace, as it has done repeatedly over the years. This confidence is reflected in the Israeli government’s unconditional commitment to negotiate if and when the Palestinians return to the table.

Finally, we benefit from close defense cooperation. Israel’s use of U.S. defense materials on the battlefield helps our military improve its equipment. Our soldiers also benefit from Israeli technological advances, including life-saving armor used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The aid we provide to Israel to help ensure its existence, to combat our enemies and to promote American interests is only about one-tenth of 1 percent of the federal budget. In my opinion, this is money well spent.

Howard L. Berman, Washington

The writer, a Democrat from California, is the ranking minority member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.