Israel's military is being badly outspent in the Middle East
Left-of-center media reports often focus on the percentage of GDP that Israel spends on its military. Just last year, the Haaretz newspaper in Israel trumpeted the following report:
Israel shells out almost a fifth of national budget on defense, figures show... State spending is more than six times what industrialized nations and Arab countries drop, on average...
Almost a fifth of Israel's budget went on defense in 2009, according to a new report. The country is spending far more than other industrialized nations on security, with over half those costs going on salary expenses.
Israel also spends proportionally more on defense than any other country in the Middle East… Even Turkey and Iran, which consider themselves military powerhouses, spent proportionately less.
For the sake of comparison: In 2009, Israel spent 6.7% of its gross domestic product. The United States, meanwhile, spent 5% of its GDP on defense; Britain 2.8% and Germany 1.2%. In Kuwait, defense spending amounted to 4% of GDP that year, in Jordan 5.6% and in Egypt 22%; Iran spent 2.3 percent of its GDP on defense and Turkey 1.4%.
For a state and its citizens, of course, the government's outlay on defense has a significant bearing on the quality of life, since more money for defense means less for other needs such as education, health, welfare and infrastructures...
What gets overlooked in these types of superficial analyses is that Israel is an island in a sea of enemy nations that surround it in the Middle East. Thus, a more accurate comparison is to look at the relative levels of military spending between Israel and the rest of its geopolitical neighborhood. As well, without a secure nation-state, spending on "education, health, welfare and infrastructures" becomes irrelevant.
The results are not favorable. Israel is being badly outspent, and the gap is growing exponentially.
The rest of the Middle East already spends almost eight times more than Israel on military expenditures each year. At no point since the SIPRI Military Expenditure Database began has Israel come close to spending as much on its military as its neighboring enemy states do.
Israel's defense spending has most certainly not "been growing by leaps and bounds" in recent years. In inflation-adjusted terms, Israel's defense expenditures have remained essentially constant since 1988, whereas those of the rest of the Middle East have increased by 160 percent. Over this time, Israel's population has almost doubled, meaning that real per capita military expenditures have been nearly cut in half during the past quarter-century.
Any arms race in the Middle East is being driven entirely by nations other than Israel. In order to keep pace with the military buildup in surrounding states, Israel will require massive increases in domestic defense expenditures coupled to international assistance from supportive Western nations. For context, the Israel-rest of Middle East military expenditure gap is already US$110 billion and growing by about US$6 billion per year.