Largest US Aid Package to Israel held up by Pro-Israel Senator

US Capitol Building (Wikimedia Commons)

While the United States and Israel are poised to sign off on a 10-year military aid package, the largest amount the US has ever given Israel or any country for that matter, the deal is being held up by one American Senator who insists on giving Israel more.

Both administrations appear eager to strike a deal before US President Barack Obama’s term ends. But long-time Israel supporter Sen. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) opposes the agreement and wants to increase the amount from $3.1 billion to $3.4 billion.

“The Israeli prime minister told me the administration is refusing to sign the (memorandum of understanding) until I agree to change my appropriation markup back to $3.1 billion,” Graham was quoted as saying. “I said, ‘Tell the administration to go F themselves.’

“I’m offended that the administration would try to take over the appropriations process,” Graham said. “If they don’t like what I’m doing, they can veto the bill. We can’t have the executive branch dictating what the legislative branch will do for a decade based on an agreement we are not a party to.”

Graham had already drafted a bill to give Israel $3.4 billion. The White House’s memorandum of understanding is a 10-year package that would begin in 2018, last until 2029 and would totally $38 billion. But there is a catch in the deal’s longevity: Israel would be barred from asking Congress for an aid increase during this time.

Netanyahu had initially hoped for $5 billion a year, according to accounts in the Israeli news media, arguing that Israel must spend even more on defense in the wake of last year’s Iran nuclear deal spearheaded by the Obama administration.

One reason perhaps Israel is eager to sign off on a deal for a lower amount is due to what Israelis are sensing is a waning support for Israel among Americans and the uncertainty of the future US president. A 10-year package would lock in support no matter what changes in the American government.

US Ambassador Dan Shapiro however said that this package shows America’s commitment to Israel’s safety in the region and will help the Jewish state bolster its arsenal of fighter jets, finance anti-missile technology and improve tunnel detection technology.