US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Israel Museum.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
WASHINGTON – The Trump administration will support Congress’s effort to provide Israel with more aid than was guaranteed in a formal defense package negotiated by former US president Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last year, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
That agreement – a memorandum of understanding meant to govern US defense assistance to Israel through the coming decade – provides Israel with $38 billion through 2028. During the 2016 negotiations, Israel’s leadership signed a side letter promising to return any aid appropriated by Congress exceeding the $3.1 billion set aside for this fiscal year. But Congress ignored that provision, cutting Israel an additional $75 million in aid in its latest appropriations bill.
A report in the right-leaning Washington Free Beacon
published over the weekend claimed that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wanted Israel to return the check, as promised in its letter to the Obama team. But a senior State Department official said that report was incorrect.
“The administration is committed to ensuring that Israel receives the assistance that has been appropriated by Congress,” the official said, confirming that Trump will work to ensure the $75 million in additional aid is delivered.
In September of last year, shortly before the MOU was originally signed in a public ceremony in Washington, the Israeli government sent a letter to the White House promising it would “return any check” that amounted to more than what was agreed.
Then-acting national security adviser Yaakov Nagel, who negotiated the deal on Israel’s behalf, said that the principle behind this letter was clear: The MOU should be inviolable, not to be increased or decreased in any given year due to timely or exigent circumstances.
If the framework were broken and increased one year, the concern in Jerusalem was that perhaps in the future it would be broken and decreased. A US official said the purpose of the side agreement was to ensure the integrity of the defense package in the long term.