U.S.-Israel Defense Aid Deal to Be Signed Soon, U.S. Envoy Says

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U.S. President Barack Obama meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations, New York, U.S., September 21, 2011.
U.S. President Barack Obama meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations, New York, U.S., September 21, 2011. Credit: Kevin Lamarque, Reuters

A defense agreement between Israel and the United States is expected to be signed soon, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said Sunday.

Speaking to a conference at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, Shapiro said the agreement would provide for Israel’s defense needs until 2029 and constitutes the largest aid grant the United States has ever given a foreign country.

Shapiro’s remarks were the first public comments on the aid package by any official Israeli or American source in several weeks. In early August it looked like all the details had been finalized but weeks have passed and it has yet to be signed. A senior Israeli official said the delay in signing stemmed from several technical issues that were still unresolved and had to be addressed.

In recent weeks the talks between Israel and the United States on the security agreement were overshadowed by two major confrontations. The first was over the critical Defense Ministry comments issued at Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s instructions against U.S. President Barack Obama on the first anniversary of the nuclear deal with Iran. The statement compared the agreement to the failed Munich agreement with Nazi Germany that preceded World War II. To assuage the anger in the White House Lieberman was forced to publicly apologize and issue a clarification.

The second clash occurred over the weekend after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted a video in which he accused the United States and other Western countries who oppose settlement construction of essentially supporting the ethnic cleansing of Jews from the West Bank. The U.S. State Department forcefully objected, saying that such terminology was “inappropriate and unhelpful.”

But Shapiro’s comments on Sunday night prove that despite the great anger at Netanyahu, the Obama administration is determined to sign the security agreement. The senior Israeli officials confirmed that the signing is expected within two weeks.

The assumption is that if the agreement is sealed before Netanyahu travels to UN General Assembly in New York later this month, there will be a meeting between him and U.S. President Barack Obama on the sidelines at which both will welcome the signing of the deal. The two leaders aren’t expected to sign the agreement themselves; it will be signed by senior officials of both sides.

The security assistance deal is expected to total $38 billion over a decade, an average of $3.8 billion a year. For the first time it will also include American aid to Israel for developing antimissile defense systems. As part of the agreement, Israel promises not to approach Congress independently over the life of the agreement to ask for an aid increase. The pact also states that within six years the arrangement that allowed Israel to use 40 percent of aid to buy equipment from Israeli defense contractors and to by fuel for the military will end.

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