Israel and the US have reportedly reached a defense aid package deal to the tune of $38 billion over the next decade, with the Jewish state pledging not to seek additional funding from Congress.
According to a report by Channel 2 on Monday, Washington and Jerusalem have all but sealed the $38 billion agreement, which is set to be signed “within days.”
The agreement includes a provision slashing spending of the US funds on Israel’s arms industry over the next six years, the report said.
According to a report in the Washington Post on Sunday, the defense aid deal was being held up by Sen. Lindsey Graham, who was advancing a bill for $3.4 billion in annual military aid to Israel — a larger sum than what the White House was reportedly willing to offer.
“I’m offended that the administration would try to take over the appropriations process. If they don’t like what I’m doing, they can veto the bill,” Graham said. “We can’t have the executive branch dictating what the legislative branch will do for a decade based on an agreement we are not a party to.”
Graham said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had informed him that his opposition was holding up the deal.
“The Israeli prime minister told me the administration is refusing to sign the MOU until I agree to change my appropriation markup back to $3.1 billion,” Graham said. “I said, ‘Tell the administration to go F themselves.’”
According to Channel 2, Israel is effectively siding with the White House in the spat with Graham, with a commitment it will not seek more support from Congress, with the exception of during wartime.
On Sunday, US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said the new agreement would be valid until 2029 and would constitute “the US’s biggest aid package to any other country in history.”
The deal, he said at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya’s International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, “would be finalized in the very near future.”
US and Israeli officials have been in talks for months to hammer out a memorandum of understanding that would increase US military aid to Israel for the next 10 years, due to be renewed before 2018.
The current aid package stands at $3 billion annually, and Israel has asked that the amount for the next 10-year deal be raised to $3.7 billion each year, according to earlier reports.
In addition to the extra $700 million per year, Israel is also reportedly asking that the memorandum include a separate deal for missile defense spending, which could raise the total amount to more than $4 billion annually.
The US Congress in the past has provided the Jewish state with extra missile defense spending on a provisional basis, totaling up to $600 million in recent years.
The aid package is seen in Israel as key to helping it maintain its qualitative military edge over potential threats in the region, including from an emboldened Iran flush with cash after many nuclear-related sanctions were ended over the past year in a deal signed with world powers.
For the US, Israel is a rare island of stability in a region in turmoil, as well as an ally on non-nuclear security issues in the region, including cyber warfare and efforts to rein in Islamist terror groups. Missile defense technologies developed in Israel using US funds are available to US defense contractors involved in the development. Some of these Israeli-made technologies are set to be deployed to protect US troops and allies in other global trouble spots.
The US has either jointly developed or financed all three tiers in Israel’s missile defense program — Iron Dome (short-range missile interceptor), David’s Sling (medium range) and Arrow (long range).
One key area of dispute in the aid talks, according to past reports, is America’s demand that a larger amount of the funds be spent on American-made products. Currently, Israel can spend 26.3 percent of US military aid buying from its own domestic defense companies.
The US also reportedly wants to remove a clause in the memorandum that allows Israel to spend $400 million a year on “military fuels.”
In April, more than 80 of the 100 sitting US senators signed a letter calling on President Barack Obama to increase foreign aid to Israel and immediately sign an agreement on a new package.