US Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
NEW YORK -- A landmark defense package negotiated between Israel and the United States does not prevent future Congresses from providing the Jewish state with even more aid than the deal prescribes, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on Tuesday.
"While I think the agreement is important and deserving of respect, I have also made it very clear that Congress is not a party to this agreement nor is this agreement binding on future Congresses," said the Republican senator, who serves as chairman of the Senate subcommittee on foreign aid.
"Congress has an independent duty to make a decision about the proper level of support for Israel or our other allies."
The memorandum of understanding announced earlier today by the Obama administration– worth roughly $38 billion over ten years– amounts to the largest single pledge of aid in US history. But several provisions in the deal were hotly negotiated over the course of a year, and the final product reflects some significant concessions from Jerusalem.
One loss for Israel is an offshore procurement provision that greatly benefited the country's defense industry throughout the life of an existing MOU, set to expire next year. That provision has allowed Israel to spend some US aid dollars on Israeli defense companies.
"Israel’s homegrown defense technology is some of the best in the world," Graham said in his statement. "Under our old agreement Israel was allowed to develop cutting-edge military technology and was required to share this technology with the United States.
"I’m proud to say that many of these advancements helped protect the lives of American service members in uniform," he continued, adding: "I do not believe this new provision will serve the interests of the United States or Israel." Graham has already earmarked more aid to Israel this upcoming fiscal year than the MOU calls for, by roughly $300 million.
He also questioned why the MOU– which incorporates missile defense aid for the first time– only lists $500 million for that cause, when missile threats against the state are only increasing.
Congress last year offered Israel $600 million for defense aid.
Over the weekend, Graham said he had spoken with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and outlined his position. The White House could "go f*** themselves" for opposing him, he told the prime minister.