May 18, 2022
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An unnamed US official urged Israel Sunday to accept a military aid offer which falls short of Israeli expectations, claiming the country would get no better offer from the next administration. According to Haaretz, the official said, “Israel will certainly not find a president more committed to Israel’s security than is President [Barack] Obama.”

Three rounds of talks to renegotiate US contributions to Israel’s military have largely led nowhere. A ten-year memorandum of understanding, signed in 2008, provided Israel with $3 billion annually. It is set to expire in the near future, and US congressional sources told Reuters that Israel is seeking an increase to $5 billion a year, starting in 2017. The same sources estimated the final agreement would settle between $4 and $5 billion.

On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a weekly cabinet meeting, “Perhaps we won’t succeed in reaching an agreement with this administration and will have to reach an agreement with the next administration.” This prompted the angry response from US officials.

“Even as we grapple with a particularly challenging budget environment, this administration’s commitment to Israel’s security is such that we are prepared to sign an MOU [memorandum of understanding] with Israel that would constitute the largest single pledge of military assistance to any country in U.S. history,” the senior official told Haaretz.

“Israel is of course free to wait for the next administration to finalize a new MOU should it not be satisfied with such a pledge, but we would caution that the US budgetary environment is unlikely to improve in the next 1-2 years and Israel will certainly not find a president more committed to Israel’s security than is President Obama.”

The same official emphasized that negotiations are “taking place in the context of a challenging budgetary environment in the United States that has necessitated difficult tradeoffs amongst competing priorities including not just foreign assistance and defense but also domestic spending.” Currently, over 50 percent of America’s foreign military spending goes to Israel.

“Despite these [budgetary] limitations, based on extensive consultations with Israel on its threat environment and in-depth discussions within the U.S. government regarding Israel’s defense needs, we are confident that a new [memorandum] could meet Israel’s top security requirements and preserve its qualitative military edge,” the official added.

White House officials stressed that Israel’s security is a top priority of the Obama administration, as demonstrated by its spending to date. “From the $20.5 billion in Foreign Military Financing to the additional $3 billion in missile defense funding the United States has provided under his leadership, no other U.S. Administration in history has done more for Israel’s security.”

A senior Israeli official noted that, while negotiations are ongoing, it would likely take presidential intervention to make any real progress. “It’s not a subject for staff, but rather for decisions by leaders,” he said. This may happen in the near future, as Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon is scheduled to visit his American counterpart, Ashton Carter, in Washington next month, followed two weeks later by a visit to the US by Netanyahu, who is expected to meet with Obama at that time.