Record US military aid deal for Israel to be signed on Wednesday

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United States and Israel to sign record military
deal.

Israel has long been a major recipient of US
aid.
Deal will incorporate money for Israeli missile
defense.
Thep United States and Israel have agreed on a
record $38 billion package of US military aid and
will sign the new pact on Wednesday, enshrining
defense funding for Washington’s closest Middle
East ally for the next decade, officials said.
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 and US congressional aides.
Those include Israel’s agreement not to seek
additional funds from Congress beyond what will
be guaranteed annually in the new package, and 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 in preparation for the signing
ceremony, and the White House also began briefing
members of Congress on the deal.
10-YEAR AID PACKAGES
Nearly 10 months of drawn-out aid negotiations
have underscored continuing friction between
President Barack Obama and Netanyahu over last
year’s US-led nuclear deal with Israel’s arch-foe
Iran, an accord the Israeli leader opposed. The
United States and Israel have also been at odds
over the Palestinians.
But the right-wing Israeli premier 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, and of taking too
hard of a line with the Israeli leader.
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.
Despite increased funding under the new package,
Republican US Senator Lindsey Graham, a key pro-
Israel lawmaker, said that while the agreement was
“deserving of respect,” it was too restrictive and
not generous enough to meet Israel’s needs.
Efforts to finalize the deal had been held up over
his objections, sources familiar with the matter
said.
MISSILE DEFENSE
The deal, known as a memorandum of
understanding, or MOU, calls for $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 – setting the
amount at $500 million a year – 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.
The State Department and Netanyahu’s office
coordinated the release of brief Statements
declaring the deal was complete and would be
signed at a ceremony in Washington on
Wednesday. Neither side offered details.
The pact will not be signed by Obama and
Netanyahu, who have had a fraught relationship,
but by two senior aides, in keeping with the way
the two governments have formally sealed previous
deals of this type. Nagel and US Undersecretary of
State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon will sign
the document.
SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL’S SECURITY
Netanyahu gave ground on several major points.
He conceded to a US demand for a gradual
phasing-out, starting in 2020, of the 26.3 per cent
share of the aid money 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. The issue was a major
sticking point in negotiations.
Netanyahu also agreed to end Israel’s use of 13
per cent 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.
US congressional approval is needed each year for
disbursement of the aid to Israel as part of the
annual budget process. While Graham insisted the
MOU would not be “binding on future Congresses,”
reaction was mostly positive on Capitol Hill, where
support for Israel’s security is strong.

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