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Obama May Boost Military Aid to Israel by Up to 50 Percent

July 19, 2015

With the ink barely dry on the Iranian nuclear deal, the Israeli government and its allies in the U.S. are mounting an all-out effort to stop the agreement in Congress. Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's rival Isaac Herzog of the Zionist Union, will be coming to the United States to press Congress. As the Washington Post reported, "The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is funding a new 501(c)4 group, Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, that is expected to spend $20 million to $40 million on advertising and campaigns in 30 to 40 states to mobilize opponents of the deal to write or call their members of Congress." Meanwhile, Netanyahu and his current and past ambassadors to Washington are flooding American airwaves and op-ed pages to undermine the President of the United States.
So what price will Israel pay for its betrayal of its last, best friend on earth? In a nutshell, nothing. Instead, President Obama is willing to massively increase American military aid to Israel to as much as $4.5 billion dollars a year.
That's right. While American diplomats and arms control experts praise the P5+1 deal as a strong agreement to prevent an otherwise unconstrained Iran from building nuclear weapons, Bibi insists it is a "historic mistake." And for that, Fox News reported, he will be rewarded:

The Times reports that under a memorandum of understanding that runs until 2018, the U.S. provides Israel with $3 billion per year in aid, most of which is used to buy military hardware, such as jets. An official familiar with ongoing negotiations told the paper that Israel has asked for between $4.2 and $4.5 billion per year for 10 years in a new aid agreement. According to The Times, negotiations on the agreement began long before the Iran talks ramped up.

But those negotiations, long underway, were shut down by Prime Minister Netanyahu. As the New York Times explained, the Israeli leader doesn't want the appearance of a consolation prize now. When President Obama raised the prospect of even sweeter deal than the $3.6 to $3.7 billion annual windfall many analysts expected, Bibi brushed him off:

As in previous talks with Mr. Obama, Mr. Netanyahu refused to engage in such talk "at this juncture," the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to detail the private discussions. And on Tuesday, as administration officials fanned out to make the case for the Iran agreement, one aide suggested in a phone call to Jewish and pro-Israel groups that Mr. Netanyahu had rebuffed their overtures because he believes accepting them now would be tantamount to blessing the nuclear deal, say people involved in the call who did not want to be quoted by name in describing it.

Under no illusions about the Israeli gambit, President Obama explained to Times' columnist Thomas Friedman Bibi's attempt for a two-fer. Obama claimed that Netanyahu "perhaps thinks he can further influence the congressional debate, and I'm confident we're going to be able to uphold this deal and implement it without Congress preventing that." He continued:

"But after that's done, if that's what he thinks is appropriate, then I will sit down, as we have consistently throughout my administration, and then ask some very practical questions: How do we prevent Hezbollah from acquiring more sophisticated weapons? How do we build on the success of Iron Dome, which the United States worked with Israel to develop and has saved Israeli lives?"

The process of rewarding Israel's bad behavior could begin as soon as next week, when Defense Secretary Ashton Carter visits the region. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (the same Ya'alon who previously accused Secretary of State John Kerry of having "misplaced obsession and messianic fervor" about Palestinian peace talks) told the Jerusalem Post that his government will have to "talk about the trade-offs that Israel has coming to it in order to preserve a qualitative edge." And what Israel "has coming to it" apparently will now have a bigger price tag:

Before Netanyahu's suspension of aid talks, the two sides were close to a new package of grants starting in 2017 and worth $3.6 billion-$3.7 billion. US and Israeli officials said.
That sum would likely rise once talks resumed, they said.

As one Israeli official told Sheldon Adelson's Israel Hayom, "How can anything compensate for an arsenal of nuclear weapons held by a terrorist regime that intends to destroy you?"
That attitude is more than a little ironic. After all, killing the P5+1 deal would leave an unmonitored Tehran unconstrained in seeking nuclear weapons, especially as the international sanctions regime inevitably crumbled. Short of a full-scale war, launching preemptive strikes against the Iranian nuclear program could only delay (and , in fact would encourage) the nuclear break-out Israel and the U.S. both seek to prevent. More ironic still, Israel has enjoyed a Middle East nuclear monopoly for decades precisely because it deceived the United States about both its capabilities and its intentions. Meanwhile, some neoconservatives have proposed ending U.S. military aid to a now very wealthy Israel precisely to limit the leverage of any American president. Nevertheless, Israel's military will soon receive a huge booster shot courtesy of its American patron.
"Israel has no better friend than the U.S," Benjamin Netanyahu is fond of saying, always adding, "and the U.S. has no better friend than Israel." Bibi's half-right. America's real best friends--France, Germany and the UK--are standing side-by-side with the United States on the Iran nuclear agreement, just as they did in Afghanistan after September 11, 2001. Now, just months after addressing Congress to sabotage the policy of the sitting President of the United States, Netanyahu is once again demonstrating that America is his friend without benefits.
As his battle over the Iran nuclear deal is joined, Benjamin Netanyahu has emerged as the anti-Churchill in the relationship between Americans and Israelis: Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so few to so many. Apparently, the debt that Israelis can never repay is about to get a lot bigger.


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Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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