US and Israel sign massive 10-year military aid deal
Published 14/09/2016 | 21:41
The United States and Israel have signed a new aid deal that will give the Israeli military 38 billion dollars (£28.6 billion) over the course of 10 years.
It is the largest such agreement the US has ever struck with any country.
After months of negotiations, the unprecedented deal was signed at the US State Department on Wednesday.
The 3.8 billion dollars-per-year deal is up from 3.1 billion dollars the US gave Israel annually under the current 10-year deal, which expires in 2018.
Under the agreement, Israel's ability to spend part of the funds on Israeli military products will be phased out, eventually requiring all of the funds to be spent on American military industries.
Israel's preference for spending some of the funds internally had been a major sticking point in the deal.
US president Barack Obama said: "This commitment to Israel's security has been unwavering and is based on a genuine and abiding concern for the welfare of the Israeli people and the future of the state of Israel."
After months of negotiations that took place after a particularly tense time in the relationship amid disputes over the Iran nuclear deal, the memorandum of understanding was signed by Israel's national security adviser, Jacob Nagel, and Thomas Shannon, the third-highest ranking US diplomat.
Mr Obama's national security adviser Susan Rice, who witnessed the signing, called the deal a sign of Washington's "unshakable commitment" to the security of the Jewish state.
She said the agreements makes clear that the US "will always be there for the state of Israel and its people today, tomorrow and for generations to come".
Mr Nagel hailed the agreement as an indication of the "rock-solid alliance" between Israel and the US.
He said: "Israel has no better friend, no more reliable strategic ally, no more important partner than the United States of America.
"Everyone can see and feel the special relationship between our countries and our people."
The deal includes, for the first time, money for missile defenc e programmes. Under the previous arrangement, Congress approved funds for missile defence separately and on an annual basis.
The new agreement eliminates Israel's ability to spend a fraction of the funds on fuel for its military. In another apparent concession, Israel has agreed not to ask US Congress to approve more funds than are included in the deal unless a new war breaks out.
The agreement concludes many months of negotiations that involved a delicate calculation by Israel about whether to strike a deal with the outgoing US president.
In February, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu quietly floated the prospect of waiting for Mr Obama's successor in hopes of securing a better deal.
But the Obama administration was eager to lock in the agreement before leaving office to help bolster the incumbent's legacy and undercut the criticism that his administration was insufficiently supportive of Israel.
Mr Obama's relationship with Mr Netanyahu has been tense for years, and ties between the countries worsened significantly when the US and world powers struck the 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 program.