US, Israel Sign Record Military Aid Agreement
(Source: Voice of America; issued Sept 14, 2016)
CAPITOL HILL --- The United States and Israel signed a landmark 10-year military assistance agreement Wednesday, as U.S. lawmakers of both political parties stressed that Congress will determine actual aid levels to the Jewish state.
The memorandum of understanding (MOU) promises to provide Israel with a record $38 billion from 2019 through 2028, boosting the yearly commitment from $3 billion to $3.3 billion and locking in an additional $500 million annually for Israeli missile defense.
White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice underscored the “ironclad bond” between the United States and Israel at a signing ceremony held at the State Department.
“This [MOU] marks a significant increase over our existing funding, and it will ensure that Israel has the support it needs to defend itself, by itself, and to preserve its qualitative military edge,” Rice said.
Representing Israel was Acting National Security Advisor Jacob Nagel, who said the aid package "strikes the right balance between the needs and capabilities of both countries” and “enables Israel to better defend itself, by itself” against any threat.
Nagel said the MOU will fund “a robust missile defense” to counter threats in the region.
The aid package was the product of months of delicate negotiations between the U.S. and Israel, and included stipulations that rankled some U.S. lawmakers. Israel agreed to use the aid to buy American-made weaponry and agreed not to lobby Congress for additional funds.
“That is a backdoor effort to basically take over the appropriations process,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told VOA. “Under this construct, Congress has been dealt out, and I will not accept that.
“The MOU is not binding on Congress. It’s an annual appropriation,” (Emphasis added—Ed. added Graham, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee.
On that point, the Senate’s second most powerful Democrat agreed.
“The actual funding is going to be subject to congressional action,” said Minority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois. “They [the administration] can make a recommendation of what we expect to give to Israel, but Congress makes the final decision.”
Graham said the MOU provides Israel with certainty about the assistance it will receive, but at levels below the $4 billion in total military assistance that committees in both houses of the Republican-led Congress formulated for 2018.
“It’s hard for me to believe that in 2018 the conditions in the Mideast are going to be such that we need to lock in a lower [aid] number,” Graham said. “I think it’s nickel-and-diming Israel.”
Durbin was more upbeat on the MOU. “I am prepared to support it,” he said. “We stand behind Israel’s right to exist."
U.S. commitment ‘unwavering’
The signing ceremony provided a rare moment of congeniality between the Obama administration and the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In a statement, President Barack Obama said the MOU underscores that “the United States has been Israel’s greatest friend and partner. This commitment to Israel’s security has been unwavering and is based on a genuine and abiding concern for the welfare of the Israeli people and the future of the State of Israel.”
Obama restated America’s commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, adding that the MOU will help further a core U.S. objective: “that Israelis can live alongside their neighbors in peace and security.”
“The president is a true friend of Israel,” Durbin said. “It’s also true that he disagrees with some of the policy decisions made by the Netanyahu government, particularly when it comes to settlements and negotiations.
“But the president has been committed to Israel. This memorandum of understanding is a long-term commitment by our nation to continue this alliance,” the Democratic senator added.
“I wish the administration had been as hard on the Iranians as they have been on Israel,” Graham complained. “They are walking on bended knee through glass to keep the Iranian agreement that’s a disaster. They are accommodating Iran at every turn, but they are grinding Israel down here.”
FACT SHEET: Memorandum of Understanding Reached with Israel
(Source: White House; issued Sept 14, 2016)
Under President Obama’s leadership, the multifaceted cooperation between the United States and Israel has reached unprecedented levels. This is particularly true with regard to the security of Israel. The new 10-year security assistance Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to Israel is the most recent reflection of President Obama’s unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security.
Under the new MOU with Israel, the Obama Administration has made the largest single pledge of military assistance in U.S. history:
The total value of the new MOU, which covers FY2019- FY2028, is $38 billion ($3.8 billion per year). It will succeed the current $30 billion MOU signed in 2007, which will expire at the end of FY2018.
This amount represents a significant increase over the current MOU by every measure, and will enable Israel to acquire additional advanced military capabilities from the United States.
It includes $33 billion in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) funds and an unprecedented $5 billion commitment in missile defense assistance. This funding will be disbursed in equal increments of $3.3 billion in FMF and $500 million in missile defense funding each year for the duration of the understanding.
In practical terms, the level of funding specified in the MOU will permit Israel to update the lion’s share of its fighter aircraft fleet - including through the acquisition of additional F-35s - increase its missile defense, and acquire other defense capabilities needed to meet its threat environment.
The multi-year missile defense commitment in the MOU will greatly facilitate long-term planning rather than missile defense assistance levels continuing to be appropriated year-to-year.
The $500 million in annual missile defense funding under the MOU exceeds the average level of non-emergency support the United States has provided to Israel for missile defense over the last five years.
Moreover, our decision with Israel to discontinue two anomalies in the defense relationship that no longer serve our mutual interests - Off Shore Procurement (the arrangement under the current MOU through which Israel has been uniquely permitted to spend 26.3 percent of its annual FMF package within Israel on non-U.S. products) and Israel’s use of FMF funds to purchase fuel – means that Israel will spend more funding, as much as $1.2 billion per year, on the advanced military capabilities that only the United States can provide. The acquisition of additional U.S.-produced capabilities and technology provide the best means to ensure Israel preserves its Qualitative Military Edge (QME).
Under President Obama to date, Israel has received a record amount of Foreign Military Financing (FMF) funds:
Israel remains the leading recipient worldwide of U.S. FMF. Since President Obama took office, the United States has provided Israel over $23.5 billion in FMF assistance (from 2009-2016).
In FY2016, the United States provided Israel $3.1 billion in FMF assistance to support Israel’s ability to defend against threats. This is in line with assistance provided in FY2014 and FY2015 and represented approximately 51.4% of the U.S. global FMF account in FY2016.
For FY2017, which marks the ninth year of the current 10-year, $30 billion MOU between the United States and Israel, the Administration has requested $3.1 billion in FMF for Israel.
This amounts to $8.5 million in FMF funding alone provided to Israel each day, helping it bolster its security and maintain its QME.
President Obama has also provided Israel with unprecedented levels of missile defense funding:
In addition to FMF funding, under President Obama’s leadership, the United States has provided over $3 billion in missile defense funding for programs and systems for Israel.
Since 2011, the United States has provided Israel with over $1.3 billion for the Iron Dome system alone. Iron Dome batteries and interceptors have saved an untold number of Israeli lives, particularly during the conflict with Hamas in 2014.
During that conflict, when Israeli civilians were subjected to rocket fire, the President worked with Congress to successfully provide $225 million in short-fuse funding for the Iron Dome system above the $504 million that had already been provided to Israel in FY2014 for missile defense support.
In addition to Iron Dome, the United States has invested significantly in the co-development of longer range defense systems such as David’s Sling and Arrow-3.
In FY2016 Israel received $487 million in missile defense support, including for David’s Sling. Arrow-3, and Iron Dome.
After successful joint tests of David’s Sling and Arrow-3 last year, FY16 is the first year in which missile defense funding for Israel also included funding for coproduction of these systems– further deepening our missile defense cooperation with Israel.
With over $26 billion in total assistance during President Obama’s tenure in office, Israel has been able to acquire new advanced capabilities to bolster its security:
The United States provides Israel with unparalleled access to some of the most advanced military equipment in the world, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Using FMF, Israel is scheduled to receive 33 F-35 aircraft, the first two of which will be delivered to Israel in December 2016.
Israel will be the first foreign partner to take delivery of this fifth-generation fighter aircraft.
The United States has also provided Israel with several C-130 heavy-lift cargo planes; four SAAR 6 Corvettes; ten additional F-15 aircraft; Merkava tanks and Namer Armored Personnel Carriers; Hellfire missiles; the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) and other Precision Guided Munitions.
In terms of missile defense, the United States has paid for the majority of the production costs for the Iron Dome system since 2011, the centerpiece of Israel’s missile defense architecture.
In addition to FMF and missile defense funds, the United States under President Obama has provided other forms of valuable support to Israel:
Signed by President Obama in December 2014, the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act authorizes $3 million to be spent on research pilot programs between Israeli government agencies and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The Department of Defense’s chemical-biological defense response units work with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to provide equipment and training.
The Department of Defense has sold or provided free of charge millions of dollars’ worth of U.S. excess defense articles to the IDF, supporting their need for spare parts, weapons, and simulators to maintain their current fleets.
Since FY14, the United States has allocated more than $47 million on research and development task plans for tunnel detection and mapping technologies.