Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama (Credit: Politico)
By Jordan Zaitchik
B'nai Brith Canada
The United States and Israel are expected to sign a new 10-year military aid package that will take effect in 2018, as reported by Reuters.
The three day long, closed door discussions ended on Wednesday, August 3. The discussions included Jacob Nagel, acting head of Israel's national security council and US national security adviser, Susan Rice. After talks concluded, a senior US official told Reauters, “We've made progress and closed many of the remaining gaps. We hope soon to be able to reach final agreement.” According to US and Israeli officials Netanyahu decided to forge a new memorandum of understanding with Obama rather than hoping for better terms with the next president.
One key part of the agreement is Israel's purchase of US arms only, which was proposed by the Obama administration. In the past some of the funds were being used to purchase Israeli arms. If this change occurs, it would be a major concession for Netanyahu's government.
The Obama administration and Netanyahu's government have been at odds over Palestinians and the Iranian nuclear deal, yet the two sides have been determined to come to an agreement. It is speculated that Obama's aides want to secure the new deal before his presidency since it is an important part of his legacy. It is also speculated that Netanyahu seeks a deal before the end of Obama's presidency as soon as possible, which indicates the PM's uncertainty surrounding the next president. Both sides' expediency in reaching an agreement is indicative of the two nation's desire to preserve US assistance to Israel.
The current pact was signed in 2007 and will expire in 2018. It gave Israel around $30 billion in foreign military financing, $3.5 billion annually. The negotiations are estimated to increase the annual funds to $3.7 billion. Both sides' expediency in reaching an agreement is indicative of the two nation's desire to preserve US assistance to Israel. This would be another concession for Netanyahu since he originally sought $4 billion annually.
Another major disagreement between the two sides was the White House's insistence on ending its special provision for Israel's spending of aid on its own military industries. Since 2007 Israel enjoyed the special provision to spend 26.3% of US military aid on Israeli industries rather than American industries, this provision has never been given to any other country receiving from the US. Israeli officials argued for the provision, saying that it was needed to maintain Israel’s "qualitative military edge" against hostile neighbors such as Iran. They continued on to say and that its removal would cost Israel's military industries thousands of jobs.
Sources speculate that Israel will give up its special provision but under the condition that it can be phased out over the first five years of the memorandum of understanding.