Israel to receive largest ever US military aid package
A Memorandum of Understanding will be signed at the State Department today by Israel and the U.S., pledging a record $38 billion over 10 years for the Jewish state.
It's the largest aid package in history. Not lost on anyone is the fact that this is an election year, and President Obama's attitude toward Israel has been, at best, hostile. Proposing such a large aid package is designed to solidify the Jewish vote.
"It's an important message to the region that nobody should misread the differences between the US and Israel when it comes to Iran or policy differences when it comes to the Palestinians," said David Makovsky, director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "At the core, the US remains very committed to Israel's long-term security."
Israeli perceptions that sanctions relief provided as part of the nuclear deal would allow Tehran to wreak greater havoc in the region drove Jersusalem's argument that the deal should be much larger than previous packages. Regional unrest in Syria and Iraq deepened Israeli concerns.
New York Representative Nita Lowey, the highest-ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement Tuesday that the agreement would put Israel "in a better position to address turmoil and instability in the region and therefore be able to better protect its citizens and secure its borders."
Some reports put Netanyahu's initial aid request as high as $45 billion. In the end, political imperatives may have driven both sides toward an agreement.
Obama will be able to leave the White House in an election year saying that Democrats have done more than any other party to protect a long-standing ally. His party's presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, can claim part of that legacy as Obama's former secretary of state and will likely pledge to continue those policies in her campaign appeals to pro-Israel voters.
"I think President Obama sees this as vindication of his belief that there's an iron-willed distinction between his commitment to Israel's security and whatever policy differences might exist between the two countries," Makovsky said.
For Netanyahu, reaching an agreement now removes any of the uncertainty that might surround the decisions made by Obama's successor. The agreement sets the Israeli prime minister up for a successful visit to New York next week for the UN General Assembly, where he is expected to meet with Obama.
And there is symbolic value as well in having a Democrat ink this deal with Israel, Makovsky said. "By ensuring that a liberal Democrat has signed this deal, it's a way of locking in bipartisan support."
It should be pointed out that the money would still need to be appropriated by Congress and weapon sales approved. There is no guarantee that if Democrats are in control, the full amount will be appropriated.
This is especially relevant given the probability that over the next 10 years, Israel will be forced into another war with Hamas and perhaps feel the necessity of taking out the Iranian bomb program. Liberals may use the aid package as a club to prevent Israel from defending itself.
All of this is apparent to Prime Minister Netanyahu, who wanted a larger package. What he got was significantly less than he asked for, contributing to the uncertainty over how strong the U.S. commitment to Israeli security really is.