While the US relationship with Saudi Arabia can be described, perhaps courtesy of the latter's donations to the Clinton campaign, as one of preferential treatment when it comes to arms deals, observed most recently a month ago when the US approves the sale of 130 Abrams tanks, 20 Armored vehicles and various other equipment to Saudi Arabia for $1.2 Billion, when it comes to America's other "anchor"mid-east ally, Israel, the relationship is even simpler.
As Reuters reported overnight, the US and Israel reached an agreement on a record new package of at least $38 billion in U.S. military aid and the 10-year pact is expected to be signed this week.
In a major concession by Obama, whose relationship with Netanyahu has been rather contentious in recent years, the deal represent the biggest pledge of U.S. military assistance made to any country. As for Israel, the country will agree not to seek additional funds from Congress beyond what will be guaranteed annually in the new package, and also to phase out a special arrangement that has allowed Israel to spend part of its U.S. aid on its own defense industry instead of on American-made weapons, the officials said.
In other words, a win-win for, drumroll, the US Military-Industry Complex, which is about to benefit from some $38 billion in taxpayer largesse, as Israel receives funds which will then promptly be refunded in the US to buy weapons so that the various wars in the middle east can continue indefinitely, with the blessing of Uncle Sam, of course.
As Reuters reports, Israel’s chief negotiator, Jacob Nagel, acting head of Netanyahu’s national security council, arrived in Washington overnight in preparation for a signing ceremony with U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice, according to one source familiar with the matter.
Nearly 10 months of drawn-out aid negotiations have underscored continuing friction between U.S. President Barack Obama and Netanyahu over last year's U.S.-led nuclear deal with Iran, Israel's arch-foe. The United States and Israel have also been at odds over the Palestinians.
The Israel negotiator decided to rush and conclude the arrangement with Obama, who leaves office in January, rather than hoping for better terms from the next U.S. administration, according to officials on both sides. A deal now allows him to avoid uncertainties surrounding the next president, whether Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump, and to give Israel’s defense establishment the ability to plan ahead.
Needless to say, for the MIC, a deal sooner than later is even better.
Obama's aides want a new deal before his presidency ends, seeing it as an important part of his legacy. Republican critics accuse him of not being attentive enough to Israel's security, which the White House strongly denies. Israel has long been a major recipient of U.S. aid, mostly in the form of military assistance against a backdrop of an ebbing and flowing conflict with the Palestinians and Israel's neighbors, as well as threats from Iran.
The deal specifics
The 10-year aid packages underpin Washington’s congressionally mandated requirement to help maintain Israel’s “qualitative military edge” in the region. According to the MOU, at least $3.8 billion a year in aid, up from $3.1 billion annually under the current pact, would be provided to Israel. Netanyahu had originally sought upwards of $4.5 billion a year. The new package for the first time will incorporate money for Israeli missile defense, which until now has been funded ad hoc by Congress. U.S. lawmakers have in recent years given Israel up to $600 million in annual discretionary funds for this purpose.
And while officials say Israel has agreed not to lobby Congress for additional missile defense funds during the life of the new MOU, the wording is likely to be flexible enough to allow exceptions in case of a war or other major crisis. In other words, US taxpayers may and likely will be called upon soon to provide Israel with even more weapons. Barring a last-minute snag, the new agreement is expected to be officially rolled out this week, one source close to the matter said. Another source familiar with the negotiations confirmed that the signing would be "in the coming days".
Finally, demonstrating just how farcical the role of the US commander in chief has become, the deal will not be signed by Obama or Netanyahu, who have had a fraught relationship, but instead by two of their senior aides, in keeping with the way the two governments have formally sealed previous deals of this type.
As Reuters adds, Obama and Netanyahu will both be in New York next week for the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, and officials have not ruled out the possibility of another entirely symbolic meeting on the sidelines: it is clear that despite "tensions" between the two leaders, the relationship between the two countries was never in jeopardy.
Negotiators working behind closed doors had all but completed the new package several weeks ago. Ironically, the announcement was quietly put on hold as objections were raised by a key pro-Israel lawmaker, Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, who had called for an even more generous and less restrictive aid package.
While U.S. congressional approval is needed each year for disbursement of the aid to Israel as part of the annual budget process, little opposition is expected in Congress, where support for Israel’s security is strong. It is unclear if the American people, and mostly taxpayers, share the Congressional enthusiasm to spend their money on weapons to be used for some far away war, with suppliers of the weapons collecting all the funds. At last check $38 billion amounts to a little over $100 for every American man, woman and child, money which would surely boost inflation quickly if handed out to Americans to be spent on US goods and services domestically; it would certainly result in less death and destruction.