Recently, Israel has requested an increase in annual U.S. defense aid. Its current aid package provides $3 billion annually; this is set to expire in 2017, according to Reuters.
Reuters says Israel is vying for an annual $2 billion increase in military aid; this raises Israeli annual aid to $5 billion over the course of 10 years. This brings the total aid package to $50 billion and is the reason for Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempt to rebuild relationships with prominent Democrats, whom he has strained relationships with over the course of the Iran Nuclear Deal.
On Feb. 11 Netanyahu appeared before the House to address concerns about the Iran Nuclear Deal. Politico records that Netanyahu’s appearance on Feb. 11 was arranged by then-Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell through the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer. This was not done with White House approval, which created acrimony between the United States and Israel over Middle Eastern diplomacy and Iran.
The New York Times’ guide to the Iran Nuclear Deal says that Iran will limit its uranium enrichment to 3.7 percent, to “cap its stockpile of low-enriched uranium at 300 kilograms.” Furthermore, Iran had agreed to rebuild and redesign the Arak reactor so that weapons grade plutonium could not be produced; an option that the original core reactor could accomplish. Finally, the 109-page deal that Iran agreed to allows the International Atomic Energy Agency “greater access and information regarding its nuclear program” and “to investigate suspicious sites or allegations of covert facilities related to uranium enrichment anywhere in the country.”
The deal reached has been in debate between officials in Israel and the United States, despite the United States being a large benefactor in military aid because of Israeli-Iranian relations. This has put Democratic officials in the White House and Israel at odds. Indeed, it is necessary for Israel, in order to secure military aid, to engage the White House in negotiations for a quantitative deal. However, with the strained relationship, funding may be decreased or stagnate. In order to augment American funding, Israel is pushed to strengthen their relationship with the Obama administration.
After 20 months of arduous negotiation, the White House and Iran have finally reached a deal on Iran’s uranium and plutonium production. The New York Times elevates the agreement’s status as something that “[has] long [been] sought as the biggest diplomatic achievement of [Obama’s] presidency.”
In order to gain an increase in military aid from the United States, Netanyahu has to circumnavigate this blemish in the relationship between the American and Israeli leadership. This is because the executive office’s main responsibility is to act as a liaison between domestic and foreign governments. Having this checkpoint combined with a strained relationship with the Obama administration forces Netanyahu into a critical position, since his country heavily depends on American military aid. The only way to do this is by reestablishing a healthy correspondence with the White House instead and corresponding with the administration when planning domestic visits.
Patricia Zengerle, a Reuter’s journalist, writes, “Netanyahu [has] put the brakes on [military] aid talks with Washington in the run-up to the Iran deal that was reached in July, signaling his displeasure with the negotiations. Before he did so, Israeli and U.S. officials said they were looking at a new aid package worth $3.6 billion to $3.7 billion annually.”
Zengerle quoted a senior congressional aide with saying that negotiations will first have to go through the White House.
The problem: Netanyahu has a strained relationship with both the White House and the Democratic Party.
Since World War II, Israel has received the most in cumulative U.S. foreign assistance – a staggering $124.3 billion in “bilateral assistance.” Most assistance is in the form of military aid according to Jeremy M. Sharp. The most recent deal, made between the Bush administration and Israel, garnered $3 billion in military aid over the course of 10 years.
With Israel seeking to boost annual aid whilst holding strained relationships with Obama and other Democrats, Netanyahu needs a new approach to secure increased aid.