A bipartisan bill that would cement U.S. military aid to Israel into law passed a major hurdle this week. Under the proposed legislation, the $38 billion in military aid over 10 years spelled out under the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding would be funded through a special mechanism that would be separate from the annual budget.
The U.S. House of Representative approved the measure, known as the Ileana Ros-Lehtinen U.S.-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018, several weeks after it passed the Senate. It will now head for the president’s desk.
The bill’s official name was changed to honor Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), as the outspokenly pro-Israel congresswoman is not running for re-election this fall.
“[She] has been a stalwart friend of Israel throughout her time in Congress, and it is a fitting honor that this bill to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship bears her name,” said Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.). “Israel is under constant threat from every direction. A threat to Israel, our strategic ally in a turbulent region, is also a threat to our national security.”
The bill would give Israel increased access to sophisticated U.S. technology to ensure it maintains its qualitative edge in the region through the U.S. war-reserve stockpile in Israel, which Israeli forces can use under certain conditions.
It also authorizes the president to bolster the stockpile with $1 billion worth of weaponry, as well as with precision-guided munitions to use against the Hezbollah terror group based in Lebanon. The bill further allows the president to establish a collaborative U.S.-Israel counter-drone program.
The law ensures that U.S. aid would not be cut as long as the memorandum comes into effect starting in 2019, ensuring that the funds would not be influenced by the budget wars between Congress and the White House. It also means that presidents would not be able to suspend U.S. aid as a means of pressuring Israel.
“With this measure, we are codifying the assistance levels in the latest 10-year U.S.-Israel memorandum of understanding, which aims to strengthen our already robust relationship, especially on defense matters,” chairman of the House’s Foreign Affairs Committee Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said on Wednesday. “This bill also works to build on the United States’ and Israel’s successful history of cooperation on technology development.”
The American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) praised the House for following in the Senate’s footsteps, saying it “applauds the U.S. House of Representatives for adopting the Ileana Ros-Lehtinen U.S.-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018.”
According to AIPAC, “This key legislation seeks to ensure that Israel has the means to defend itself, by itself, against growing threats—most significantly Iran’s presence on its northern border. This bipartisan bill authorizes agreed-upon increases in Israel’s security assistance. It encourages expanding U.S. weapons stockpiles in Israel and advancing U.S.-Israel cooperation in anti-drone technologies and space.”