Israel to get increased $38bn in US military aid over the next 10 years
The United States will provide Israel's military with $38bn (€34bn) during the next 10 years, the biggest batch of mili- tary assistance the US has ever pledged to another country.
Following months of behind-the-scenes negotiations, the State Department said the two countries had reached a 10-year agreement. They have not disclosed the exact sum, but officials familiar with the deal said it totals $3.8bn a year.
Under the agreement, Israel's ability to spend part of the funds on Israeli military products will be gradually phased out, eventually requiring all of the funds to be spend on American military industries. Israel's preference for spending some of the funds internally had been a major sticking point in the deal.
The agreement also eliminates Israel's ability to spend a fraction of the funds on fuel for its military. In another apparent concession, it has agreed not to ask Congress to approve more funds than are included in the deal unless a new war breaks out.
In February, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu quietly floated the prospect of waiting for President Barack Obama's successor in the hope of securing a better deal.
However, the Obama administration has been eager to lock in the agreement before leaving office to help bolster Mr Obama's legacy and undercut the criticism that his administration was insufficiently supp- ortive of Israel.
Mr Obama's relationship with Mr Netanyahu has been fraught for years, and ties between the countries worsened significantly when the US and world powers struck a nuclear deal with Iran. Israel considers a nuclear-armed Iran to be an existential threat and disagreed sharply with Mr Obama's contention that the deal actually made Israel safer by limiting Iran's nuclear programme.
Securing the deal ahead of the US presidential election in November also ensures that Mr Obama's successor will not have to delve into the issue during his or her first few months. Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton have both vowed to protect Israel's security if elected.
The new US-Israel deal also includes, for the first time, funding for missile defence programmes. Under the previous arrangement, Congress approved funds for missile defence separately and on an annual basis.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the biggest pro-Israel lobbying group, praised Mr Obama for completing the deal and said it would send "a strong message of deter- rence" to Israel's enemies.
"With these funds, Israel will be able to modernise and better equip its armed forces," the group said.
However, the agreement angered pro-Palestinian groups, who said the US should not reward Israel with unprecedented aid despite its settlement-building in the disputed West Bank.
Last week, the US was incensed by a video that Mr Netanyahu released in which he equated criticism of settlement-building to support for "ethnic cleansing".
He said it was "outrageous" that Palestinians wanted their future state to include "no Jews" and rejected the notion that the settlements were an obstacle to peace.