Barack Obama (l) and Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv during Obama’s first Israel visit as president in 2013. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL / FLASH90)
The Obama administration has announced its strong opposition to a plan for increasing funds for Israel’s missile defense program by $455 million in the upcoming year. On Tuesday, the White House sent a six-page letter to the legislative body declaring its objections to the defense appropriations bill.
“The Administration opposes the addition of $455 million above the [Fiscal Year] 2017 budget request for Israeli missile defense procurement and cooperative development programs,” read the letter, which came after last month’s recommendation by the Senate Appropriations Committee to quadruple the amount of aid to the missile program above the administration’s allocated package of $103 million.
The letter suggested that if Congress’s increased package should pass, Obama might make use of his presidential veto to shoot it down.
Pro-Israel lobby American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) condemned the White House statement, saying it was “deeply disappointed” that the administration had “criticized Congress for funding US-Israel missile defense cooperation.”
“These cooperative programs – including the Arrow, David’s Sling, and Iron Dome – are critical for Israel’s defense against a growing array of missile threats and make an important contribution to U.S. missile defense programs,” continued AIPAC’s statement.
The tussle comes as Israel and the US continue to negotiate over the size of the upcoming defense aid package to Israel, which will be spread out over a period of ten years, beginning after the current package expires in 2018.
The new package reportedly earmarks only $145.8 million for missile defense programs, which represents a significant drop in financial support.
While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hesitated over accepting the package, anticipating that Israel might get a better deal with the next administration, the US has strongly urged him to take it.
Last week, US National Security Advisor Susan Rice said that the Israel aid package currently under negotiation will constitute “the single largest military assistance package – with any country – in American history.”