Israeli, US lawmakers urge Israel to seek increased military aid from US

Following the success of the US embassy transfer to Jerusalem, some Israeli and US lawmakers are thinking of getting better terms for Israel on a $38 billion deal.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

When Congress signed off in 2016 on the biggest military aid deal ever for Israel – $38 billion in defense funding over 10 years – it was considered a major accomplishment by both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-US President Barack Obama. But it had its detractors on both sides of the Atlantic, and now some think the time is ripe for tweaking it in various ways.

Speaking at the Jerusalem Post Conference in New York Sunday, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) suggested that Netanyahu and President Donald Trump “sit down and renegotiate this deal,” because “I want to give Israel more for missile defense.”

This was actually the first Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to even include that now-all-important category, but it capped the amount of  aid for missile development at $500 million a year. According to the MoU, Israel would not be able to ask for more defense aid in any category unless there was an emergency. Considering the quick pace Israel’s enemies are working at to improve their offensive capabilities, the pro-Israel Republicans have always felt that Congress should not have had to limit their assistance a priori.

On the Israeli side, Moshe Gafni, the Knesset Finance Committee chairman, said Monday that the government should renegotiate the deal due to a different clause. Until 2016, up to 26% of American aid could be spent locally, which supported Israeli military industries and kept employment up. Under the MoU, this will slowly be reduced, starting this year, and in five years there will be a very sharp drop, until all the money will have to be spent in the United States.

Gafni is worried about the the MoU’s “severe ramifications for the delicate fabric of the State of Israel,” as reported in The Jerusalem Post. This refers to the possible closure of over 100 defense and other related firms due to an estimated loss of NIS 4 billion a year in purchases and the concomitant rise in unemployment – much of it in the financially weaker periphery of the country.

Gafni and other Israeli lawmakers expressed concern about being dependent on America in times of emergency if vital defense firms shut down, and he called on the government to talk with the Trump administration about changing this clause.

A bill called the US-Israel Security Assistance Act of 2018 is now working its way through Congress, where changes could possibly be made in both areas of concern.