U.S. seals deal to give Is­rael record $38B in mil­i­tary aid

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Tracy Wilkin­son and Joshua Mit­nick

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.

Peres stroke

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.

GALI TIBBON/GETTY-AFP

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