On Tuesday, the White House released a statement announcing an unprecedented military aid package for Israel. The statement called the expenditure the “single largest pledge of military assistance to any country in US history.”
The announcement came in response to a bipartisan letter by 83 US Senators to President Barack Obama urging him to address Israeli demands for more military assistance.
“In light of Israel’s dramatically rising defense challenges, we stand ready to support a substantially enhanced new long-term agreement to help provide Israel the resources it requires to defend itself and to preserve it qualitative military edge,” the letter stated.
Senate pressure on the Obama administration to increase aid to Israel comes at a time when Democrats and Republicans are seeking support from the powerful Israeli lobby ahead of the November 2016 election. The measure was led by presidential candidate Ted Cruz (R-TX) who was joined by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Senator Chris Coons (D-DE).
Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (D-VT) refused to sign the measure to increase military appropriations to Israel, arguing that US arms have already been used to wage disproportionate attacks against Palestinian civilians.
Ahead of last Tuesday’s New York Democratic primary, Senator Sanders castigated Netanyahu’s regime for its apartheid-style tactics and the economic repression of its Arab neighbors.
The United States has provided Tel Aviv over $3.1 billion annually in military aid since 2007, already the highest amount of foreign military aid offered to any other country. Tel Aviv scoffed at this appropriation level as insufficient and has since demanded $4.5 billion in US military aid per year. The White House has aimed to meet their Israeli counterparts in the middle, offering $3.7 billion per year.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeks urgently to finalize the deal for $3.7 billion per year before the end of the Obama presidency, fearing that his successor would refuse to offer as substantial an aid package.
President Obama’s likely successor, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has signaled a willingness to increase appropriations to Israel and is widely regarded as a war hawk. By contrast, her likely opponent, Republican Donald Trump, has openly called for a reduction in US military aid to Israel and NATO.
Since 1962, US military assistance to Israel has amounted to $124.3 billion making Tel Aviv the single largest cumulative recipient of US foreign assistance since World War II, followed by Saudi Arabia.