The ten-year, billion-dollar military defense deal between the US and Israel, which US Ambassador Dan Shapiro said on Sunday would be signed very soon, is being held up by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the Washington Post reported.
Israeli and American officials have been negotiating the next Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for months, eventually settling on a decade-long deal which the US says would increase Israel’s military aid package from $3.1 billion to $3.3 billion. US officials have called it “the largest single pledge of military assistance to any country in US history.”
However, while complete, the deal has yet to be signed and sealed, though senior Israeli official Brig. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Nagel traveled to Washington in July for the last round of talks before finalization.
Now, the Washington Post has revealed that one of the hold-ups is among Israel’s strongest supporters in government: Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.
According to the Post, Graham, who heads the Senate appropriations committee overseeing the foreign affairs budget, is angered by Congress’s exclusion from the negotiations and believes that the legislature should not stand by and accept whatever the White House hands them.
“I’m offended that the administration would try to take over the appropriations process. If they don’t like what I’m doing, they can veto the bill,” Graham told the Post. “We can’t have the executive branch dictating what the legislative branch will do for a decade based on an agreement we are not a party to.”
Graham, who traveled to Israel in March to discuss the MOU negotiations, marked up a bill increasing aid to Israel to $3.4 billion, more than the deal appropriates. In April, he spearheaded a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to approve a larger aid package to Israel, which 83 of 100 US senators signed.
After the Obama administration told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about Graham’s demand, Netanyahu phoned the senator directly to tell him that Israel was prepared to accept the deal as it stood. Graham had a colorful response.
“The Israeli prime minister told me the administration is refusing to sign the MOU until I agree to change my appropriation markup back to $3.1 billion,” Graham told the Post. “I said, ‘Tell the administration to go F themselves.’ ”
He said that he challenged Netanyahu to say Israel didn’t need the extra aid.
“I asked the prime minister, ‘If you don’t need this money, I’ll gladly change it,’ ” Graham said. “He said, ‘No, you know I can’t say we don’t need it, because the threats are real.’ ”
Another of Graham’s objections to the negotiated MOU was a set and limited amount of yearly missile defense aid, which until now had been requested and given on an annual basis depending on need.
The new bill would change that, instead giving Israel a flat $600 million in missile defense aid yearly regardless of changing security circumstances.
Graham disagreed with the limiting of the budget, arguing that the MOU should be a base and not a ceiling for the amount of security aid the US gives Israel.
Along with other Republicans, the senator also objects to a provision in the bill requiring Israel to spend US aid money with American defense contractors exclusively, which many experts say could cripple Israel’s innovative military defense industry.