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US, Israel Agree on $38 Billion Military Aid Deal


September 14, 2016
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Times of Israel & Washington Post & Reuters

Israel's Channel 2 has today reported that Israeli officials have accepted the most recent US military aid package, which will see them receiving some $38 billion over the next decade. The current aid package stands at $3 billion annually, and Israel has asked that the amount for the next 10-year deal be raised to $3.7 billion each year. A senior US administration official described the deal as "the largest single pledge of military assistance to any country in US history."

http://news.antiwar.com/2016/09/12/report-us-israel-agree-on-38-billion-military-aid-deal/

Report: US, Israel Agree on $38 Billion Military Aid Deal
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com

(September 12, 2016) -- Israel's Channel 2 has today reported that Israeli officials have accepted the most recent US military aid package, which will see them receiving some $38 billion over the next decade. Israeli officials are said to be eager to finalize it, and it is expected to be signed in the next few days.

This comes just a day after a report in the Washington Post claiming that the deal was being held up by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who was planning to advance his own, slightly larger military aid bill through the Senate and accused Obama of trying to take over appropriations duties that are rightfully Congress'.

Graham says Benjamin Netanyahu warned him he was holding up the deal, and that he told Netanyahu to tell the Obama Administration "to go F themselves." The White House was said to be reluctant to sign the deal with Graham so outraged by it.

Ultimately, this was resolved by Israel promising not to seek additional aid from Congress after signing the Obama deal, except for possibly during wartime, a concession that likely kills the Graham alternative deal, and is seen as Israel siding with the president against Congress.

Obama has been offering record deals to Israel for over a year, with Israel long demanding a little more and a little more. Ultimately, however, there was concern within Israel that extending negotiations beyond Obama's last term in office risked politicizing Israeli military aid within the US.



US, Israel Agree on $38 Billion, 10-year Defense Deal
Aid package to be signed within days, says Channel 2;
Jerusalem said to pledge it won't seek additional funding from Congress

Times of Israel Staff

(September 12, 2016) -- Israel and the US have reportedly reached a defense aid package deal to the tune of $38 billion over the next decade, with the Jewish state pledging not to seek additional funding from Congress.

According to a report by Channel 2 on Monday, Washington and Jerusalem have all but sealed the $38 billion agreement, which is set to be signed "within days."

The agreement includes a provision slashing spending of the US funds on Israel's arms industry over the next six years, the report said.

According to a report in the Washington Post on Sunday, the defense aid deal was being held up by Sen. Lindsey Graham, who was advancing a bill for $3.4 billion in annual military aid to Israel -- a larger sum than what the White House was reportedly willing to offer.

"I'm offended that the administration would try to take over the appropriations process. If they don't like what I'm doing, they can veto the bill," Graham said. "We can't have the executive branch dictating what the legislative branch will do for a decade based on an agreement we are not a party to."

Graham said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had informed him that his opposition was holding up the deal.

"The Israeli prime minister told me the administration is refusing to sign the MOU until I agree to change my appropriation markup back to $3.1 billion," Graham said. "I said, 'Tell the administration to go F themselves.'"

According to Channel 2, Israel is effectively siding with the White House in the spat with Graham, with a commitment it will not seek more support from Congress, with the exception of during wartime.

On Sunday, US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said the new agreement would be valid until 2029 and would constitute "the US's biggest aid package to any other country in history."

The deal, he said at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya's International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, "would be finalized in the very near future."

US and Israeli officials have been in talks for months to hammer out a memorandum of understanding that would increase US military aid to Israel for the next 10 years, due to be renewed before 2018.

The current aid package stands at $3 billion annually, and Israel has asked that the amount for the next 10-year deal be raised to $3.7 billion each year, according to earlier reports.

In addition to the extra $700 million per year, Israel is also reportedly asking that the memorandum include a separate deal for missile defense spending, which could raise the total amount to more than $4 billion annually.

The US Congress in the past has provided the Jewish state with extra missile defense spending on a provisional basis, totaling up to $600 million in recent years.

The aid package is seen in Israel as key to helping it maintain its qualitative military edge over potential threats in the region, including from an emboldened Iran flush with cash after many nuclear-related sanctions were ended over the past year in a deal signed with world powers.

For the US, Israel is a rare island of stability in a region in turmoil, as well as an ally on non-nuclear security issues in the region, including cyber warfare and efforts to rein in Islamist terror groups.

Missile defense technologies developed in Israel using US funds are available to US defense contractors involved in the development. Some of these Israeli-made technologies are set to be deployed to protect US troops and allies in other global trouble spots.

The US has either jointly developed or financed all three tiers in Israel's missile defense program -- Iron Dome (short-range missile interceptor), David's Sling (medium range) and Arrow (long range).

One key area of dispute in the aid talks, according to past reports, is America's demand that a larger amount of the funds be spent on American-made products. Currently, Israel can spend 26.3 percent of US military aid buying from its own domestic defense companies.

The US also reportedly wants to remove a clause in the memorandum that allows Israel to spend $400 million a year on "military fuels."

In April, more than 80 of the 100 sitting US senators signed a letter calling on President Barack Obama to increase foreign aid to Israel and immediately sign an agreement on a new package.


US-Israel Deal held Up Over Dispute with Lindsey Graham
Josh Rogin / Washington Post

(September 11, 2016) -- After long and arduous negotiations, Israel and the Obama administration have agreed on a landmark military aid package that would increase US aid to Israel over the next 10 years. But the White House is reluctant to sign the deal because officials are upset one leading lawmaker won't go along: Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.).

The new agreement, which officials say would raise Israel's annual package of military aid from $3.1 billion to $3.3 billion starting in 2018, is a complicated deal that both the White House and the Israeli government badly want to announce before President Obama leaves office, and preferably much sooner.

A senior administration official described the deal as "the largest single pledge of military assistance to any country in US history." It's Obama's parting attempt to establish a legacy of strong US support for Israel's security. The negotiations on the memorandum of understanding (MOU), as it is known, have been finished for several weeks.

But before announcing it, the White House wants to make sure that Congress won't undermine the deal by going its own way on aid to Israel. Graham, the chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee that oversees the foreign affairs budget, has already marked up a bill that would give Israel $3.4 billion next year, more than the number the White House negotiated.

The administration hasn't complained to Graham directly; it told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about its problem, and he talked to Graham about it in a phone call last month. But in Graham's view, Congress has no obligation to agree to the deal, given that it was not included in the negotiations.

"The Israeli prime minister told me the administration is refusing to sign the MOU until I agree to change my appropriation markup back to $3.1 billion," Graham said. "I said, 'Tell the administration to go F themselves.' "

What's more, during the negotiations, the administration advocated for a provision that would bar the Israeli government from lobbying Congress for additional money for the life of the MOU, Graham said.

"I'm offended that the administration would try to take over the appropriations process. If they don't like what I'm doing, they can veto the bill," Graham said. "We can't have the executive branch dictating what the legislative branch will do for a decade based on an agreement we are not a party to."

The core of the dispute centers on the fact that the Obama administration has included support for Israeli missile-defense funding in the aid package for the first time. Previously, missile-defense money was requested and given on top of the yearly aid commitment. To the White House, this makes that funding more secure and predictable.

"The fact that under our offer Israel can count on the administration's commitment to provide a substantial level of missile-defense assistance for a 10-year period is substantively different from the missile- defense support it has received in previous years," the official said.

The deal would set US funding for Israeli missile defense at $500 million per year, just above the $487 million provided in 2016. The Senate appropriations bill would give Israel $600 million for missile defense next year, and the House Armed Services Committee passed a bill authorizing that same amount. The administration asked for only $145.8 million in its 2017 budget request.

Graham said the MOU should be a base, not a ceiling, for how much security aid the United States gives to Israel. Every Democrat on Graham's subcommittee voted for his bill, and in July, 37 senators, including vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine (D-Va.), signed a letter calling on Congress to increase Israeli missile-defense funding above the administration's request.

"Amid growing rocket and missile threats in the Middle East, it is prudent for the United States and Israel to advance and accelerate bilateral cooperation on missile defense technologies," the senators wrote.

According to Graham, Netanyahu told him that Israel was ready to sign the deal but didn't ask Graham to succumb to the administration's demand that Congress preapprove it.

"I asked the prime minister, 'If you don't need this money, I'll gladly change it,' " Graham said. "He said, 'No, you know I can't say we don't need it, because the threats are real.' "

Senators in both parties are still sore over not having had much say before the Obama administration agreed to a nuclear deal with Iran. Graham and other Republicans also object to other provisions of the new agreement, including that it requires Israel to gradually stop using US aid to purchase weapons from Israeli defense contractors.

That congressional Republicans are advocating more aid to Israel than the Israeli government agreed to is certainly odd. But even more odd is the White House pressuring Congress to promise to get out of the Israel aid game for 10 years after Obama leaves office.

The White House will have to decide whether a deal meant to repair Obama's relationship with Israel and stand as part of his legacy is worth more than a fight with Congress over funding power. Congress will still be there after Obama is gone and will demand its say in Israeli security aid going forward either way.

Josh Rogin is a columnist for the Global Opinions section of The Post.


Record New US Military Aid Deal for Israel to Be Signed in Days: Sources
Matt Spetalnick and Patricia Zengerle / Reuters

WASHINGTON/JERUSALEM (September 13, 2016) -- The United States and Israel have reached final agreement on a record new package of at least $38 billion in US military aid and the 10-year pact is expected to be signed this week, sources close to the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.

The deal will represent the biggest pledge of US military assistance made to any country but also involves major concessions granted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to officials on both sides.

Those include Israel's agreement not to seek additional funds from Congress beyond what will be guaranteed annually in the new package, and also to phase out a special arrangement that has allowed Israel to spend part of its US aid on its own defense industry instead of on American-made weapons, the officials said.

Israel's chief negotiator, Jacob Nagel, acting head of Netanyahu's national security council, arrived in Washington overnight in preparation for a signing ceremony with US National Security Adviser Susan Rice, according to one source familiar with the matter.

Nearly 10 months of drawn-out aid negotiations have underscored continuing friction between US President Barack Obama and Netanyahu over last year's US-led nuclear deal with Iran, Israel's arch-foe. The United States and Israel have also been at odds over the Palestinians.

But the right-wing Israeli leader decided it would be best to forge a new arrangement with Obama, who leaves office in January, rather than hoping for better terms from the next US administration, according to officials on both sides.

A deal now allows him to avoid uncertainties surrounding the next president, whether Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump, and to give Israel's defense establishment the ability to plan ahead.

Obama's aides want a new deal before his presidency ends, seeing it as an important part of his legacy. Republican critics accuse him of not being attentive enough to Israel's security, which the White House strongly denies.

Israel has long been a major recipient of US aid, mostly in the form of military assistance against a backdrop of an ebbing and flowing conflict with the Palestinians and Israel's neighbors, as well as threats from Iran.

The 10-year aid packages underpin Washington's congressionally mandated requirement to help maintain Israel's "qualitative military edge" in the region.

MISSILE DEFENSE
The deal, known as a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, calls for at least $3.8 billion a year in aid, up from $3.1 billion annually under the current pact, which expires in 2018, officials say. Netanyahu had originally sought upwards of $4.5 billion a year.

The new package for the first time will incorporate money for Israeli missile defense, which until now has been funded ad hoc by Congress. US lawmakers have in recent years given Israel up to $600 million in annual discretionary funds for this purpose.

Officials say Israel has agreed not to lobby Congress for additional missile defense funds during the life of the new MOU, a pledge expected to be made in a side letter or annex to the agreement. But the wording is likely to be flexible enough to allow exceptions in case of a war or other major crisis.

Barring a last-minute snag, the new agreement is expected to be officially rolled out this week, one source close to the matter said. Another source familiar with the negotiations confirmed that the signing would be "in the coming days".

It will not be signed by Obama and Netanyahu, who have had a fraught relationship, but instead by two of their senior aides, in keeping with the way the two governments have formally sealed previous deals of this type.

Netanyahu gave ground on several major points. He conceded to a US demand for a gradual phasing-out of the amount of aid money -- now 26.3 percent -- that Israel can spend on its own military industries rather than on American products. The provision originated in the 1980s to help Israel build up its defense industry, which is now a major global player.

Netanyahu also agreed to end Israel's use of 13 percent of the US money on military fuel purchases, officials said.

Obama and Netanyahu will both be in New York next week for the opening of the UN General Assembly, and officials have not ruled out the possibility of a meeting on the sidelines.

Negotiators working behind closed doors had all but completed the new package several weeks ago. But an announcement was quietly put on hold as objections were raised by a key pro-Israel lawmaker, Republican US Senator Lindsey Graham, who had called for a more generous and less restrictive aid package, sources familiar with the matter said.

It was unclear, however, whether the administration's differences with Graham had been resolved or it had decided to go ahead with the announcement anyway.

US congressional approval is needed each year for disbursement of the aid to Israel as part of the annual budget process. But little opposition is expected in Congress, where support for Israel's security is strong.

Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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