US and Israel sign unprecedented military aid deal
Washington - The United States and Israel have signed the largest military assistance agreement in US history, one that will provide Israel with $38 billion in military technology and equipment over ten years.
The agreement, reached after long and at times difficult negotiations, was signed September 14th at the US State Department by Jacob Nagel, Israel’s national security adviser, and Thomas Shannon, the third-highest ranking US diplomat.
The deal will begin in US fiscal year 2019 and represents an $800 million annual increase in military aid to Israel over the two countries’ current agreement, which expires in 2018.
In a White House statement, US President Barack Obama said the agreement was “based on a genuine and abiding concern for the welfare of the Israeli people and the future of the state of Israel”, which the president said was “unwavering”.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu issued a statement saying that the agreement demonstrates that “relations between Israel and the United States are strong, powerful”. He said disagreements between the two countries, which have been frequent during Obama’s tenure in office, “are disagreements within the family [that] do not impact the great friendship between Israel and the US”.
One of the sticking points in negotiations over the agreement was US insistence that Israel’s ability to spend a portion of US aid on Israeli-made military products be phased out so that eventually all of the money must be spent on US military industries. Israel ultimately conceded the point even though it likely will mean reduced revenues for its defence sector.
The new agreement removes Israel’s ability to spend any of the funds on fuel for its military, as it was allowed to do under the previous agreement, and Israel agreed not to request additional funding from Congress unless war breaks out.
But since by law all US spending originates in congressional legislation, there is nothing to prevent a member of Congress from proposing annual increases in aid for Israel and, given Israel’s strong standing in Congress, any such requests would not be a surprise. It would then be up to the president to challenge or accept the additional funding.
One of Israel’s victories in the new agreement — in addition to the substantial increase in the overall dollar amount of aid — was the inclusion of annual funding for Israel’s missile defence programme. Under the current arrangement, these funds were appropriated separately each year by Congress legislation and the annual amounts varied.
Some observers expressed surprise that Netanyahu was willing to strike a deal with Obama, given the testy relationship between the two leaders, and some of the Israeli prime minister’s advisers wanted to wait and negotiate with the next US administration.
But Netanyahu apparently calculated that securing a deal with Obama would prove the deep roots of the US-Israel relationship. It also prevents military aid to Israel from becoming the target of US budget cutting, at least for the next ten years.
As for Obama, the agreement will help counter criticism that his administration was insufficiently supportive of Israel.