(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must reach an agreement with US President Barack Obama’s administration on a new Memorandum of Understanding governing US military aid to Israel as soon as possible, opposition leaders Isaac Herzog and Yair Lapid told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations this week.
Netanyahu briefed the cabinet last week that the deal may not be concluded during the remaining months of Obama’s term because the issues are complex, detailed and take time. Herzog and Lapid warned that Netanyahu must not let his poor relations with Obama compel him to stall for a better deal with the next American administration.
“We need to preserve our qualitative military edge, which requires coming to terms with the administration as fast as possible,” Herzog told the Jewish leaders Tuesday. “It is vital that we keep that edge. We have to be ready to present our case on the international front.”
Herzog said there was nothing more important to Israel’s well-being and safety than its relationship with the US. He accused Netanyahu of harming that relationship.
“I think Obama contributed dramatically to the well-being and security of Israel,” Herzog said.
“We have to be willing to work intimately with Obama without a condescending attitude. That was my main criticism of Netanyahu.”
Lapid told the conference Monday there have been too many disputes between the Netanyahu and Obama governments over the past year. He said both administrations should do more to create the positive atmosphere necessary to ensure the success of the talks.
“It is acceptable to conduct tough negotiations, to stand up for our demands, and to say we have more needs due to the Iranian nuclear deal,” Lapid told the Jewish leaders.
“It is not acceptable to wait for the next administration or to cause an open argument between friends.”
The new Memorandum of Understanding governing US military financial aid to Israel over the next decade will include a significant increase, but will limit Congress’s ability to add supplemental military financial aid on a year-to-year basis, Defense News reported.
According to the report, an Israeli cabinet minister said that the proposed package would start at an annual $3.8 billion in 2018, and grow incrementally until the total over the 10-year period reaches more than $40b. The current 10-year MoU, which was signed in 2007, provided Israel with some $30b. in financial military aid.
Both Herzog and Lapid briefed the Jewish leaders about their diplomatic initiatives. Lapid told them about his efforts against the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement. Herzog criticized Lapid while playing up his own plan.
“My plan is the only plan,” Herzog said.
“It’s either my plan or Bennett’s plan. A plan of doing nothing is not a plan. My party has taken a more centrist stance and has become more realistic of the reality on the ground.”
Zionist Organization of America head Morton Klein questioned Herzog about his statement that Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas were not progressing toward a two-state solution because “both have been hijacked by their extremists.”
Herzog responded that if Klein would ask leaders around the world who is responsible for the current diplomatic stalemate, those leaders would say it was Netanyahu who was unwilling to meet and who was making excuses instead of taking action.
“Do [Netanyahu and Abbas] want to make history or not?” Herzog asked rhetorically.
“They are the leaders. People can vote to change them.”Herb Keinon contributed to this report