US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Israel Museum.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump signed an omnibus defense spending bill into law on Monday, codifying a ten-year memorandum of understanding with the Jewish state negotiated by the Obama administration.
The bill includes $500 million in anti-missile defense aid and $50 million in anti-tunnel assistance. It also authorizes a joint US-Israeli assessment of the types of precision-guided munitions necessary for Israel to defend itself against Hezbollah and Hamas, mandating rapid acquisition and deployment for such arms.
Passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in both houses, the Fiscal Year 2019 law also endorses a comprehensive strategy to counter Iran’s “destabilizing activities” to include investments in intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, integrated air and sea capabilities, demining technology and cyber offense and defense. The Senate clarified that the legislation does not grant Trump congressional authority to use military force against Iran, shortly after he tweeted a threat to the Islamic government there in all capital letters.
Iran is only one of three nations expressly named in the law, alongside Russia and China, characterized as cybersecurity threats. Congress wants the administration to report assessments of their “strategies, programs, order of battle and doctrine” to a private scientific advisory group partnered with the Pentagon, named JASON in the bill.
And it requires the administration to submit reports to Congress on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s war crimes, and any efforts to train and equip vetted Syrian rebels.
The law also encourages increased cooperation between NASA and Israel Space Agency, extends the US War Reserve Stockpile Ammunition in Israel by five years and authorizes a joint US-Israeli counter-drone program.
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