The United States and Israel have finally closed the unprecedented, $38 billion military aid deal which the two nations have been negotiating for months, senior officials announced from Washington on Tuesday.
The ten-year deal will constitute “the single largest pledge of bilateral military assistance in U.S. history,” said the State Department in its announcement. It will go into effect in 2018 and expire in 2028.
Officials from both sides will sign the agreement in a special ceremony held in the Treaty Room of the State Department on Wednesday.
Acting head of Israel’s National Security Council Jacob Nagel will sign on behalf of the Jewish State, while the U.S. will be represented by Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Tom Shannon.
According to a senior Israeli official, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama will probably speak on the phone after the deal is signed.
Negotiations over the landmark agreement have been ongoing for nearly a year, with many bumps and obstacles along the way. Netanyahu was reported to have hesitated over signing the deal with the Obama administration, anticipating a potentially sweeter package with the next president. However, U.S. officials urged him to sign, saying Israel would not get a better deal.
The amount represents an increase from the previous ten-year deal, which totaled $30 billion. The new Memorandum of Understanding grants Israel a total of $38 billion over ten years, with $5 billion of that sum earmarked for the development of missile defense systems.
Many in Israel, and even some in the U.S. Congress, including Senator Lindsey Graham (R – SC), have objected to some of the deal’s provisions. One clause in particular is a sore point for Israel’s defense industry, as it demands that the majority of the deal’s missile defense budget be spent in the U.S.
Israeli opponents to the deal argue that the clause will effectively cripple Israel’s domestic industry and make Israel dependent on the U.S. for military weaponry.
In any case, the deal is guaranteed to further solidify the diplomatic and military ties between the U.S. and Israel, a relief to many who feared that President Obama’s attitude towards Israel during his time in office would permanently harm the two countries’ long-standing alliance.