Vijaya Laxmi Tripura
At a time when President Donald Trump has been busy reshuffling international treaties, most recently transforming President Bill Clinton’s North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) into a more favorable to the US North American US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), it was reassuring to read Monday’s announcement from Trump’s State Dept. regarding the Ten-Year Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Israel.
The deal with the Obama administration, signed on September 14, 2016, was the culmination of a year-long effort on the part of the US to curb funds going to support Israel’s military. Signed by Israel’s Acting National Security Adviser Jacob Nagel and US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon, Jr., the deal awards Israel an aid package of $38 billion over 10 years (from 2019 to 2028), compared with the $30 billion ten-year package that ends this year.
One of Obama’s major victories in the new deal was to receive Israel’s commitment not to ask Congress for additional funds to develop its missile defense system – the deal awards Israel $5 billion to that end, $500 million each year.
Another Obama achievement: the deal phases out Israel’s use of 25% of the aid for purchases in-country, from the Israeli defense industry. Of course, every major Israeli weapons manufacturer has succeeded in finding partners in the US, or to establish (as in Elbit’s case) its own American subsidiary. So that the curb may impact Israeli jobs, but not income.
State Dept. spokesperson Heather Nauert on Monday issued a statement saying, “Today, as we enter the new fiscal year, the ten-year period of the $38 billion Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the United States and Israel in 2016 begins.
“Under the terms of the MOU, the United States will set funding for Israel at levels of $3.3 billion in Foreign Military Financing and $500 million for cooperative programs for missile defense over each of the next ten years, a significant increase enabling Israel to acquire additional advanced military capabilities from the United States that will, over time, enhance Israel’s security and strengthen our bilateral relationship.
“Our implementation of this historic MOU reflects the enduring and unshakable commitment of the President, this Administration, and the American people to Israel’s security. The MOU was negotiated under the previous Administration, reflecting the bi-partisan nature of this commitment.
“Israel is a valuable and capable ally to the United States that today faces dangerously escalating regional threats, first and foremost from the Iranian regime’s sponsorship of terrorist groups seeking to attack not only Israel but also American interests. Israel is also threatened by the reckless proliferation of destabilizing weapons systems into the region that increase the possibility of an escalated conflict in an already dangerous and volatile theater.
“The United States unconditionally affirms Israel’s right to self-defense, and this MOU is a concrete demonstration of our commitment to Israel’s capacity to defend itself with a qualitative military edge over all potential regional adversaries.”
It should be noted that in his signing statement, back in September 2016, President Obama did not declare strategic cooperation with Israel to be an end in itself, as did Monday’s statement from the Trump administration. Obama added a note in his signing statement, stressing that the US “will also continue to press for a two-state solution to the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict, despite the deeply troubling trends on the ground that undermine this goal,” and commented at the signing that “We are concerned about settlement activity.”