Tags: Israel | US | Israel | Aid | Package | Netanyahu | Obama

US, Israel Real Close on 'Biggest Aid Package Ever'

Image: US, Israel Real Close on 'Biggest Aid Package Ever'
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By    |   Saturday, 30 Jul 2016 02:37 PM

The acting head of Israel's National Security Council is coming to Washington next week to sign an agreement "as soon as possible" for the largest package of military aid the the United States has ever awarded, with the aid to continue for more than 10 years after President Barack Obama leaves office in January.

Brig. Gen. Yaakov Nagel will meet with White House officials, according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office, reports The Washington Post, marking a turnaround since February, when Netanyahu said during a cabinet meeting that Israel might wait until the next administration takes office to reach an agreement.

According to a Post source, the urgent visit likely shows that the Israeli leader has concluded he won't get a better deal with whomever wins the November presidential race, despite his tense relationship with Obama.

The current administration is prepared to sign a decade-long "memorandum of understanding" that it says will raise the current $3.1 billion a year already granted to Israel under its current military aid package, which runs out in 2018, a year after Obama leaves office. The package also includes additional money for missile defense systems, approved through Congress.

The Israeli news media reports Netanyahu had been seeking as much as $5 billion a year, claiming that the country needs to spend much more to defend itself after last year's nuclear deal with Iran was approved. Through that deal, Iranian assets that have been frozen will be released, and Israeli leaders believe that money would be used to finance Iranian military actions.

There are some snags in the talks, however, reports The Post. The Obama administration wants to phase out an arrangement allowing Israel to spend just over a quarter of U.S. aid on defense research, procurement and development.

No other country receiving defense aid is permitted to use the money in such a manner, but the provision was approved in the 1980s to allow Israel to boost its defense infrastructure. Now that that has happened, the Obama administration wants to require more aid to be spent on American supply and service companies.

If that happens, though, Israeli defense companies stand to lose hundreds of millions of dollars, and critics say that could make it more difficult for the Israeli military to maintain its advanced equipment.

The Israeli government also is not happy with a part of the deal that says the money awarded will be final, reports The Post. However, Netanyahu is under pressure to finalize the agreement, with the country's finance and defense ministers complaining that the delay was causing uncertainty with planning.

David Makovsky, an analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said that Israelis are also concerned that U.S. liberals are starting to back away from supporting Israel, but at the same time, they are worried about Donald Trump's "unpredictability factor."

"He professes his support of Israel," Makovsky said, "but he's also someone saying America's broke. A bit of bird-in-the-hand would lock that in."

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The acting head of Israel's National Security Council is coming to Washington next week to sign an agreement "as soon as possible" for the largest package of military aid the the United States has ever awarded...
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2016-37-30
Saturday, 30 Jul 2016 02:37 PM
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