U.S. seals deal to give Israel record $38B in military aid
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Tuesday announced a major new 10-year package of security assistance for Israel despite sharp disagreements between the allies.
The agreement, a “memo of understanding,” is to be signed Wednesday at the State Department, which called the $38 billion deal “the single largest pledge of bilateral military assistance in U.S. history.”
Officials said the package will increase U.S. aid from about $3.1 billion a year to as much as $3.8 billion a year.
The deal emerged in prolonged talks that followed a public rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the nuclear deal with Iran, the Palestinian peace process and other issues.
Officials in both countries had said the deal was near completion for some time. However, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, had criticized the package and indicated that he believes Israel should receive more aid.
Until Tuesday, the White House was reluctant to announce the deal if there were a chance Graham would try to undercut it.
Obama is eager to put the aid in place before he leaves office in January, however. Analysts said he wants his legacy to show a strong commitment to Israel’s security independent of his clashes with Netanyahu.
Netanyahu plans to visit New York next week to attend the annual U.N. General Assembly. Officials have not said if he will meet with Obama.
Obama administration officials say U.S. security cooperation with Israel has Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to visit New York next week to attend the U.N. General Assembly.
JERUSALEM — Former Israeli President Shimon Peres suffered a “major stroke” Tuesday and experienced heavy bleeding in the brain, a hospital official said, as doctors raced to stabilize the 93year-old Nobel laureate. Peres is the elder statesman of Israeli politics and the last surviving link to the country’s founding fathers. — Associated Press reached record levels over the last year despite the disputes with Netanyahu’s government.
The new U.S. aid package would be the largest ever to a single country. It will allow Israel to buy highend U.S.-made military hardware to help it maintain a clear technological advantage over its foes.
Palestinians and other critics of Israel complained that the new aid package and its decade-long duration, from fiscal year 2019 to 2028, essentially rewards the Netanyahu government despite its expansion of much- criticized settlements in the West Bank and other points of contention.
“Israel will not be held accountable (for) anything,” Basel Ghattas, an Arab member of Israel’s Knesset, or parliament, said recently in Washington.
But the State Department responded that actions the Obama administration may not like, such as settlement expansion, have to be “compartmentalized” from the United States’ “ironclad commitment to Israel’s security.”
Israeli critics of the aid negotiations say Israel could have gotten a more generous aid package if Netanyahu had engaged in talks last year when Obama was trying to secure Israel’s backing for a nuclear deal with Iran.
Amos Yadlin, a former chief of Israeli military intelligence and the director of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said Israel’s decision to pass up a deal last year was “mistaken” and that it hurt Israeli security interests.
Under the terms of the new package, Israel will no longer be able to spend one-fourth of the U.S. aid for purchases at Israeli companies — a change that could be a blow to the country’s defense industry.
The Obama administration also insisted — to Israel’s chagrin — that the country will no longer be able to rely on Congress to approve funds separate from the aid package.