America is a generous country - from 1946-2010 (in 2010 $), she has given just under $2.1 trillion in foreign program and military aid. Impressive, and well... it makes me proud to be an American.
Over this period, the #1 beneficiary of American largesse is Israel ($185 billion or 8.9% of all aid).
Israel receives American aid with good reason - they are the longest-standing democracy in the Middle East, and they have the most effective lobbyists in the world. The value proposition is the preservation of Israel in the face of their anti-Zionist neighbors.
I’ve spent time in the Middle East, and except for the (very) rare zealot, the people I’ve met care little about the Jew/Muslim issue - their focus is their family (health, economic, social wellbeing). This is because the people I knew were gainfully employed and had something besides zealotry to live for.
Are there freaks on both sides that are filled with hate? Of course, but not as many as we might think. Do some of them wish to create armies with which to wreak violence? Yes - on both sides. The media’s relentless and gawky focus on the ugly side of humanity is why we think they represent the majority.
America also has it’s share of hate-filled people, but it’s not so easy to achieve critical mass here - most Americans have too many other things to live for/distract them. Even the Occupy Wall Street movement petered out because people soon had better things to do than sit in tents and be irritating.
In 2010, America gave Israel $2.8 billion ($386/person or 1.3% of Israeli GDP) in aid. The West Bank/Gaza received $693 million - $4/person or 10% of GDP. Israel’s GDP/capita is ten times that of their poorer neighbors; the average income in Israel is just over $30,000/year vs. just under $2,000/year in the West Bank.
Is it any wonder that it’s easy to recruit Arab “soldiers” - they literally have nothing better to do, and very sadly, nothing to live for but dying. Having just $5.50/day will lead anyone, however civilized or educated, to desperate acts. It’s not hard to see how a Palestinian parent might join a terrorist organization, or “volunteer” a child to the “cause” - it’s the only available way to feed their family - they’re that poor.
Has the $185 billion in American aid done anything to create a (self-) sustainably peaceful Israel? No. Should we stop? No. Should we continue doing the same thing? No. So...?
Our goal is the long-term preservation of Israel; we should then stop funding their ability to kill Arabs (majority of US aid to Israel is military), and instead help Israel by enabling the Arabs' economic viability.
Employment is the offspring of the marriage of demand with capacity. If America were to proffer large tranches of demand (we will buy $X millions of products Y1, Y2, etc. for the next Z years) to the Palestinians, the result would be widespread employment in Gaza and the West Bank. We would phase out our investment as they became self-sustaining.
This would profoundly change the dynamic in the region. If you had two ways to feed your family - send your daughter to her suicide-bomber-death, or work at a job, which would you choose?
If the majority of Palestinian families are earning enough money to cover shelter, food, education, healthcare, etc., and if they are then earning just a bit more so as to buy that new iPad Mini or a TV, I guarantee you they will not reelect Hamas. They will choose a commerce-minded government bent on improving their economic situation even more. Israel won’t matter except as a trading partner; they’ll be too busy playing Angry Birds, watching Desperate Housewives, and thinking about what they’ll buy with their next bonus.
Now think of how much more stable and peaceful Israel would be. The best way to end war is to give people something more valuable to live for.
America should never weaponize other countries. Peace through prosperity should be our foreign policy motto.