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US signs unprecedented deal with Israel for $38 billion in military aid over next decade

Sept. 14, 2016 6:08 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 15, 2016 2:17 P.M.)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu listens to US President Barack Obama during a 2013 meeting in the White House. (AFP/Saul Loeb, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Israeli and United States governments signed on Wednesday a $38 billion military aid package, promising Israel the hefty sum in the form of financial assistance and missile defense systems over the course of 10 years, according to Israeli media.

According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the deal was signed at 9 p.m. Jerusalem time by Israeli Acting National Security Adviser Jacob Nagel and US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon, on the condition that Israel will not seek additional funding from the US Congress for the next decade.

However, the deal allows for Israel to request more funding in cases of "emergency" -- which reportedly include war, Israeli efforts to destroy tunnels between the besieged Gaza Strip and Israel, and the development of cyber defense systems.

The current military aid package, which gives Israel with an annual sum of $3.1 billion, is set to expire in 2018.

Multiple Israeli news websites reported that during talks leading up to the new agreement, which will take effect in 2019, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had requested the annual funding increase to as much as $4.5 billion, though the US government later settled on $3.8 billion each year for the next decade, with no additional requests allowed on Israel’s part except during wartime.

US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said on Sunday that the deal, known as the "memorandum of understanding,” would constitute “the US’s biggest aid package to any other country in history.”

According to Ynet News, the new package is a first, in that it will include provisions for missile defense projects, which in the past have been drawn separately from funds directly from the US Congress.

The site reported that over the last few years, American legislators have transferred up to $600 million to Israel for missile defense purposes.

Though the current aid package allows Israel to spend 26.3 percent of US military aid on its own domestic defense companies, the new deal reportedly contains a provision curtailing Israel’s ability to spend the funds on its own weapon industry for the first six years.

Such aid packages in the past have not been without their benefits to the United States government and military.

Missile defense technologies developed in Israel using US funds are available to US defense contractors involved in the development, the Times of Israel said.

The site added that 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).

More than 80 percent of American senators signed a letter in April addressed to US President Barack Obama urging him to reach an agreement on an increased military aid package to Israel.

While US-Israel relations have seen a series of diplomatic disputes during Obama’s administration, Israel remains the number one long-time recipient of US military aid, and US representatives have largely neglected efforts to hold Israel accountable for violations of Palestinian rights and international law.

Also in April, more than 90 percent of the United States House of Representatives signed a letter urging Obama to veto “any resolution at the United Nations that sets parameters for Israeli-Palestinian talks.”
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