JERUSALEM (JTA) – U.S. officials reportedly have urged Israel to sign the 10-year foreign aid package on the table, saying it will not get a better deal with the next president.
“Even as we grapple with a particularly challenging budget environment, this administration’s commitment to Israel’s security is such that we are prepared to sign an MOU [memorandum of understanding] with Israel that would constitute the largest single pledge of military assistance to any country in U.S. history,” an unnamed senior U.S. official told Haaretz on Sunday night.
“Israel is of course free to wait for the next administration to finalize a new MOU should it not be satisfied with such a pledge, but we would caution that the U.S. budgetary environment is unlikely to improve in the next 1-2 years and Israel will certainly not find a president more committed to Israel’s security than is President Obama.”
Earlier in the day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in remarks to his Cabinet said the deal may not be signed during the current administration, saying the issues are complex, detailed and take time, according to The Jerusalem Post. U.S. President Barack Obama leaves office in January 2017.
The aid package due to expire in 2018 averages $3 billion a year in assistance. Israel reportedly hopes to increase the annual amount to $5 billion, while Obama administration officials are said to be offering closer to $4 billion.
According to the unnamed official, Israel currently receives over 50 per cent of American foreign military aid.
Obama has pledged to maintain a robust defence relationship with Israel in the wake of a nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers that Israel had adamantly opposed.
Members of the Obama administration’s national security team were in Israel last month for talks on the assistance package.