Despite billions in aid annually, Israeli officials are angered that the Obama administration wants to end a provision that allows over a quarter of that aid to be spent in Israel, rather than the U.S.
WASHINGTON — Israel could soon accept its largest ever military aid deal from the United States, which is reportedly increasing an annual support package that already numbers in the billions.
Currently, Israel receives over $3.1 billion in aid annually from the U.S. under a 10-year deal forged under President George W. Bush and set to expire in 2018, but the Obama administration could soon sign another 10-year agreement to increase that aid even further.
“In addition, Congress has provided additional money for missile defense,” noted The Washington Post on Friday.
Israeli officials — including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — were holding out for as much as $5 billion a year during “months of secret negotiations,” The Post’s Carol Morello and Ruth Eglash reported.
“Israelis argued that they need to spend much more on defense in the wake of last year’s Iran nuclear deal, which is freeing up frozen Iranian assets that Israel fears may be used in part to fund Iranian aggression in the region,” they wrote.
Even Israeli intelligence officials have cast doubt on the threat posed to Israel by Iran, but it is possible that a more powerful Iran could threaten Israel’s plans to control energy resources in the region, including the illegally occupied Golan Heights in Syria.
One remaining issue is over a special allowance the U.S. grants Israel, allowing it to spend up to 26 percent of its aid dollars in Israel.
“No other country receiving U.S. funds is permitted to do so, but it was carved out in the 1980s to allow Israel to build up its nascent defense infrastructure,” reported the Post.
The Obama administration wants to bring this exception to an end, forcing Israel to spend all aid dollars in the U.S. “With Israel’s defense industry now thriving, the administration wants to pare that back and require that more U.S. aid go to American companies providing goods and services,” Morello and Eglash explained.
Sixty-two percent of Americans believe Israel receives too much aid already, according to a poll conducted in March, and at least one Israeli military expert argues that it’s time to cut back on foreign military aid. Maj. Gen. (Res) Gershon Hacohen, former head of Israeli Defense Forces war colleges and commander of Israel’s Northern Corps, told Defense News last week that U.S. aid “harms and corrupts us” and the Israeli military should seek gradual reductions, rather than constant increases in aid.
“It requires leadership, but if this could be done in a calculated, well planned manner, it would restore our sovereignty, our military self-sufficiency and our industrial capacity,” he added.
In February, Ali Abunimah, the co-founder of Electronic Intifada, a news and advocacy site supporting Palestinian liberation, suggested these aid packages — and Washington’s continued willingness to ignore Israeli war crimes against Palestine — were payment for allowing diplomacy in the region.
“Indeed, Palestinian rights and lives have been the currency Obama has used to ‘compensate’ Israel over the Iran deal,” he wrote.
Just as Iran poses little or no actual threat to Israel, Abunimah concluded that Israel likewise knows better than to threaten American interests in Iran:
“The new, bigger-than-ever Obama arms package will not be used by Israel to attack Iran, and therefore does not interfere with any U.S. hegemonic interest.
The weapons Obama is giving Israel will be used to maintain and fuel Israel’s occupation, apartheid and settler-colonialism in Palestine, not to mention its regular massacres in Gaza.”