Obama signs Israel strategic partnership bill
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Obama signs Israel strategic partnership bill

President approves law which lays groundwork for increased trade, military cooperation between Jewish state and US

Former US president Barack Obama speaks during a press conference in the briefing room of the White House December 19, 2014, in Washington, DC. (AFP/Brendan Smialowski)
Former US president Barack Obama speaks during a press conference in the briefing room of the White House December 19, 2014, in Washington, DC. (AFP/Brendan Smialowski)

President Barack Obama on Friday signed a bill deepening US-Israeli cooperation and said the legislation reinforces “critical defense and security programs.”

Obama said the legislation also lays the groundwork for increased trade and cooperation between the US and Israel.

However, Obama said his administration will interpret certain sections in a manner that does not interfere with his constitutional authority to conduct diplomacy. That includes a section requiring the administration to provide Congress with certain diplomatic communications.

The US-Israel Strategic Partnership Act increases the value of emergency US weaponry kept in Israel by $200 million, to a total of $1.8 billion. It promotes closer US-Israeli links in energy, water, homeland security, alternative fuel technology and cybersecurity.

It also offers a verbal guarantee of Israel maintaining a qualitative military edge over its neighbors.

The law also expands cooperation on research and development, business, agriculture, water management and academics.

Earlier this year, Congress increased US funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, to $351 million for fiscal year 2015 from $235 million the previous year.

A controversial section of the Strategic Partnership bill that sought to secure a special exemption for Israel in the Visa Waiver Program was replaced instead with language that simply states that it shall be the policy of the United States to include Israel in the list of countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program when Israel satisfies — and as long as Israel continues to satisfy — the requirements for inclusion in the program.

AFP contributed to this report.

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