With the Middle East on fire, both the American people and the people of Israel face real and growing threats.
Syria continues to implode. Iraq is a disaster. The Islamic State keeps launching barbaric attacks throughout the region, as well as in Europe and is trying to pull off a major attack inside the U.S. Meanwhile, Iran is on the path towards building nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles.
Now more than ever it’s vital to strengthen and expand the security alliance between the U.S. and Israel. Yet there’s a glitch.
All summer long, observers of this special alliance have been expecting a formal announcement that the Netanyahu government has accepted a new 10-year military aid package offered by President Obama.
Yet the summer has come and gone, and no announcement has been forthcoming.
In April, 83 of 100 U.S. Senators — led by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Sen. Chris Coons (D-Delaware) — sent a letter
to the White House urging the President to boost security assistance to Israel, especially in the wake of the highly controversial nuclear deal the administration cut with Iran and the security disasters unfolding in the epicenter.
“In light of Israel’s dramatically rising defense challenges, we stand ready to support a substantially enhanced new long-term agreement to help provide Israel the resources it requires to defend itself and preserve its qualitative military edge,” the Senators wrote.
Since then, there have been repeated reports of an imminent deal.
Yet more than a month has passed since Mr. Nagel’s visit to D.C., and still no deal.
While there could be any number of reasons for the delay, consider two.
Scenario #1 — The deal is done but leaders in Washington and Jerusalem are delaying until later this Fall to make a big, splashy announcement.
The operating theory here would be that Obama and his political handlers didn’t want news of such an important agreement to be made public during August when so many Americans were on vacation and the two political conventions dominated the headlines. A Fall announcement would maximize the White House’s ability to assure voters that Democrats are, in fact, “pro-Israel,” despite a rocky relationship between Obama and Netanyahu over the last eight years.
Scenario #2 — The deal has been derailed and the Israeli government has not, in fact, accepted Mr. Obama’s offer.
Under this theory, perhaps Mr. Netanyahu and his team think either: A) they can strike a better deal as we get closer to the American elections; or B) they can strike a better deal with the next President in 2017, whoever that may be.
The current M.O.U. was negotiated by the Bush administration in 2007. It doesn’t expire until 2018. In theory, that does give Israel more time to get better terms. It doesn’t have to make a decision in 2016.
The last M.O.U. was a very favorable deal for Israel and was clear evidence of a strong alliance and shared security interests between the two country.
What’s more, the current deal does not prevent Congress from passing additional military aid for Israel above and beyond the M.O.U. in any given year.
Thus, when you include additional missile defense funds for Iron Dome and so forth, Congress is set to provide Israel $3.4 billion in 2016, a full $300 million above the current M.O.U. figure.
But Congressional sources tell me the administration is only offering $3.3 billion a year, a full $100 million less than Israel will receive in 2016.
And the White House is apparently insisting on a provision that Congress cannot provide additional funding in future years, even if the security situation vastly worsens in the years ahead. The new offer would also severely limit the amount Israel could spend inside Israel.
Should the Israeli government accept such a deal if it would prevent a future American president and Congress from increasing funds if the situation warranted?
Should Israel accept a deal that locks in less annual American military assistance than it currently receives?
Should it do so especially at a time when Iran — Israel’s sworn enemy — is being provided upwards of $100 billion or more, the end of economic sanctions and a clear pathway to nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles?
Sen. Graham doesn’t like how the White House is handling the situation. He won’t presume to tell the Israeli government what to accept or not to accept, but from an American perspective he believes it’s critical that the deal with Israel not only be generous but also create flexibility given the security meltdown underway in the Middle East.
Israel is not voluntarily “giving up” its initial request, but it is being strong-armed by the administration to back away, Graham told Washington Post
columnist Jennifer Rubin.