Pindostan Offers to Increase Military Aid to Israel
Julie Hirschfeld, NYT, Jul 1 2016
FASCHINGSTEIN — The White House on Friday told Congress critturs that it had offered to substantially sweeten a decade-long military aid package for Israel, the latest turn in months of fitful negotiations. Under the proposed terms, Pindostan would insist that the Israelis use the tens of billions of dollars they receive under the deal to buy Pindo-made goods and services, rather than spend a sizable portion in their own country as they are permitted to do now. The administration laid out details of the package in a lengthy letter to senators who had written to the White House in April urging the completion of a new aid deal. In the thick of the debate last year over the Iran deal, Netanyahu refused to negotiate with Obama over a so-called Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a military aid package to replace one that expires in 2018. Once the Iran deal went into effect, negotiations on a new aid package commenced between Pindosi and Israeli officials. But consensus has been elusive. In the letter on Friday, national security adviser Susan Rice and OMB Director Shaun Donovan said that the administration was prepared to increase the existing military aid package for Israel, worth nearly $30b ($3b/yr for 10 years – RB), and sign a new one “that would constitute the largest pledge of military assistance to any country in Pindosi history.” That would include a new 10-year pledge to fund missile defense systems in Israel, an arrangement now paid for in yearly installments and subject to the often unpredictable annual appropriations process. Rice and Donovan said:
[Such an aid agreement] would build on the unparalleled support that Pindostan has provided to Israel under President Obama. Through word and deed, this administration has done more for Israel’s security than any other in Pindosi history.
Obama has made it clear that completing the deal before he leaves office is a priority, and Netanyahu has said he was eager to seal it as well. But challenging political dynamics have complicated the talks. Some analysts say that Netanyahu is calculating that he may reach a more advantageous deal with a future president, a charge that the Israelis strenuously deny. Others have suggested that Obama is pressing to finish the agreement in part to insulate himself against accusations that he has been too tough on Israel, especially if he decides later this year to pressure the country to accept a peace deal with the Palestinians that embraces a two-state solution. The negotiations have unfolded in secret, with neither side willing to detail its position on an agreement that people close to the talks have said could top $40b ($4b/yr for 10 years). For months, boxtops have haggled over the price tag, as Israel has insisted on a higher figure than Pindostan was willing to support. But the decision by the White House to explicitly lay out its position on how much of the money would be spent inside Israel, an issue that had emerged as a sticking point, appeared to signal that a conclusion to the talks could be near. Ilan Goldenberg of CNAS said:
The chances seem to be better now than they were a couple months ago. Clearly, they’re getting to the end one way or the other.
Under the existing agreement, Israel is permitted to spend about a quarter of the military aid it receives outside Pindostan, and 13% of it on fuel, concessions that no other recipient of Pindo funding receives. Israel has spent about $1.2b/yr: $7.9b since 2008, the White House said. The provision originated in the 1980s as a way to spur the development of Israel’s defense industry, which is now booming. Israel has become one of the top 10 arms exporters in the world, competing with Pindostan. In their letter, Rice and Donovan said the aid package was being negotiated in “an especially challenging budgetary environment,” with the possibility that automatic across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration could return in 2018. They said it was time to move away from the special arrangements.