USA TODAY US Edition
U.S. shows support for Israel with aid package
Record $38B deal sends message in challenging times
The United States agreed Wednesday to provide Israel a record $38 billion in military aid over the next decade. The pact is a sign of the two nations’ close alliance despite major differences over Iran’s nuclear program and other policies.
The agreement, which equates to $3.8 billion a year, is the largest bilateral military aid package and includes $5 billion for missile defense, additional F-35 joint strike fighters and increased mobility for ground forces.
The aid package “is just the most recent reflection of my steadfast commitment to the security of the state of Israel,” President Obama said in a statement.
It will make “a significant contribution to Israel’s security in what remains a dangerous neighborhood,” Obama said. “The continued supply of the world’s most advanced weapons technology will ensure that Israel has the ability to defend itself from all manner of threats.”
“When our partners and allies are more secure, the United States is more secure,” national security adviser Susan Rice said at a signing ceremony Wednesday at the State Department.
“The U.S. is sending a message to the region that despite all the differences between us and Israel over the last few years, none of Israel’s adversaries have a patron willing to commit as much money to their defense as the United States,” said David Makovsky, an analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a thinktank in Washington.
Some critics faulted details of the agreement, which they said would hurt Israel’s ability to ask for more assistance in emergencies or as security conditions change.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called the memorandum of understanding between the two allies important but slammed a provision that would limit Israel from seeking additional U.S. funds except in times of war.
“Congress is not a party to this agreement, nor is this agreement binding on future congresses,” Graham said in a statement. “Congress has an independent duty to make a decision about the proper level of support for Israel or our other allies. To suggest this (agreement) will bind future presidents and congresses for the next decade is constitutionally flawed and impractical.”
Graham told USA TODAY he intends to propose a further increase of aid to Israel, saying some in Congress are discussing a wish list of advanced weaponry that would greatly expand Israel’s military capabilities. “As Iran develops its missile threat, let’s push back. Let the ayatollah know the more provocative you are, the more we’re going to spend on Israel’s defense,” Graham said.
The agreement, which will go into effect in 2019, represents a 20% increase from the previous U.S. aid agreement of $3.1 billion annually. It includes $500 million for missile defense to replace up to $700 million that Congress had approved for Israeli missile-defense systems in recent spending bills.
Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington think-tank, said the new yearly total, $3.8 billion, does not represent a significant increase overall.
The agreement “forced Israel to think about the long-term capabilities they would like to have,” but a 10-year agreement is far too long, Schanzer said.
“None of Israel’s adversaries have a patron willing to commit as much money to their defense as the United States.”
David Makovsky, Washington Institute for Near East Policy