Touting aid deal, Obama says true Israeli security requires Palestinian statehood
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Two-state solution, says Obama, is vital for Israel to 'endure and thrive'

Touting aid deal, Obama says true Israeli security requires Palestinian statehood

US president says military package will help Israel defend itself but ‘long-term security’ depends on creating ‘an independent and viable Palestine’

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

US President Barack Obama speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum on March 22, 2013, in Jerusalem, Israel. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images/JTA)
US President Barack Obama speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum on March 22, 2013, in Jerusalem, Israel. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images/JTA)

US President Barack Obama said Wednesday that while the massive new military aid deal for Israel — Washington’s largest defense package to any country in history — would help Israel defend itself, “long-term security” can only be achieved by the creation of “an independent and viable Palestine.”

Signed at a State Department ceremony earlier on Wednesday, the new package will grant Israel $3.8 billion annually — up from the $3 billion pledged under the previous agreed-upon MOU — starting in 2018 and through 2028.

In a statement released shortly after the signing, Obama described the agreement, known as the memorandum of understanding, as “just the most recent reflection of my steadfast commitment to the security of the State of Israel,” citing billions of dollars already provided by his administration over the past eight years.

“Over the past eight years, my administration has time and again demonstrated this commitment in word and deed,” he said, stressing that this deal will help Israel address its defense needs.

“Both Prime Minister Netanyahu and I are confident that the new MOU will make a significant contribution to Israel’s security in what remains a dangerous neighborhood. 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.”

The signing of the US-Israel military aid deal in the State Department on September 14, 2016 (screen capture: State Department livestream)
The signing of the US-Israel military aid deal in the State Department on September 14, 2016 (screen capture: State Department livestream)

But the US president said a bolstered military was not enough to secure long-term stability for the Jewish state. He said America’s commitment to Israel’s security meant more than just giving military aid.

“It is because of this same commitment to Israel and its long-term security that we will also continue to press for a two-state solution to the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict, despite the deeply troubling trends on the ground that undermine this goal,” he said.

“As I have emphasized previously, the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine. Ultimately, both this MOU and efforts to advance the two-state solution are motivated by the same core US objective that has been shared by all administrations, Democratic and Republican, over the last several decades — ensuring that Israelis can live alongside their neighbors in peace and security.”

Speaking before the ceremony, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked the United States for what he described as the “unprecedented” and “historic” defense aid package.

“This agreement will ensure an unprecedented level of defense aid for Israel in the next decade,” Netanyahu said in a video. “This is the largest military aid package the US has ever given out to any nation.”

“The agreement will help us continue building our armed forces, improve our missile defense systems,” he added. “I want to thank President Obama and his administration for this historic agreement.”

Writing on Twitter, Israeli ambassador to the US Ron Dermer thanked Obama directly for “forging this historic agreement.”

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