US State Dept. says $38 bn defense deal with Israel to be signed Wednesday

The US State Department said on Tuesday that it had concluded the largest-ever deal for military aid to Israel,  which is to be signed Wednesday at 2 PM Washington time.

The acting head of Israel’s National Security Council, Jacob Nagel, arrived in Washington D.C. earlier in the day, where he was expected to meet with US National Security Adviser Susan Rice to sign the memorandum of understanding (MOU) on a long-awaited 10-year military aid package reportedly worth $38 billion.

The hard-fought deal, which has been under negotiation since November 2015, will provide Israel with $38 billion in military aid over the next decade with $5 billion earmarked for the development of missile defense systems.

Israel also signed a pledge that it will not seek additional funding from Congress, Channel 2 reported on Monday.

A key sticking point in negotiations had been the fact that the White House decided to include funds for missile defense in the aid package. Money for missile defense systems was previously requested separately and in addition to the annual sum.

The agreement constitutes “the largest single pledge of military assistance to any country in US history,” an unnamed official was quoted by the Washington Post on Monday.

As a provision to the agreement, the US will also drastically cut spending on Israel’s arms industry over the next six years, Channel 2 said.

While negotiations were reportedly completed weeks ago, the Obama administration faced one final hurdle before finalizing the deal – Republican Senator Lindsey O. Graham.

Graham is reportedly critical of the fact that Congress was not involved in the talks.

“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,” the Washington Post quoted Graham as saying.

In July, 37 senators signed a letter urging Congress to boost spending for Israel’s missile defenses above what the White House requested.

The current security memorandum of understanding between the US and Israel, signed in 2007, is due to expire at the end of 2018. That agreement provided Israel with security aid totaling $30 billion over 10 years.

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