The United States is reportedly about to give its biggest-ever pledge of military assistance to Israel.
According to sources who spoke to Reuters, the two countries recently came to a final agreement on a new military assistance pact that will see the US give Israel at least $3.8 billion a year for a decade. Under the previous deal, which expires in 2018, Israel received more than $3.1 billion annually.
In addition to being America's largest-ever grant of military aid to its longtime ally, the new agreement, which is set to be signed within days, contains several firsts. The funding includes money set aside for Israeli missile defense, which in the past had been funded ad-hoc by US Congress to the tune of up to $600 million annually. And in exchange for the military package, Israel will refrain from lobbying Congress for additional funds throughout the duration of the new pledge — though sources told Reuters the wording of the deal may allow exceptions to be made in the event of war.
Sources said that Israel made several concessions in the deal. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu originally asked for at least $4.5 billion each year. And as part of the new deal, Israel will have to scale down the amount of American military aid money it spends on its own defense industry. Currently, Israel spends about 26 percent of US aid on domestic military contractors; Washington wants that to go to US companies instead.
Decades of US aid has helped Israel raise one of the world's most formidable military forces. A 2015 report from Credit Suisse ranked the Israeli military the world's 14th most powerful.
The new deal is the result of negotiations that were reportedly prolonged as a result of tensions that developed after the US made its nuclear deal with Iran, to which Israel was staunchly opposed. But officials who spoke to Reuters said that Netanyahu nevertheless believed that making a deal with President Barack Obama, rather than Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, would be best for Israel.
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