Sunday, June 26, 2016

Israel's 'staunchest ally' Pres Hussein Barrack may stop subsidizing Israeli defense firms.

Israel's 'staunchest ally' Pres Hussein Barrack may stop subsidizing Israeli defense firms. (JT).

If you want to understand just how special the U.S.-Israel relationship really is, look no further than the annual aid package. Israel is not only the greatest beneficiary of U.S. defense assistance, but also the only one allowed to spend a portion of that assistance on weapons and equipment from its own industry. Everyone else has to buy American.

President Barack Obama is now looking to end this U.S. subsidy of Israel’s defense sector, according to U.S. and Israeli officials. They say the “offshore procurement” provision, unique to Israel’s aid package, is one of the last obstacles to completing an agreement to extend aid until 2029. Obama would like to phase out the agreement that allows Israel to spend 26 percent of U.S. annual aid at home. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, so far, disagrees.

Like almost everything else in Israel, there is no consensus on whether Netanyahu should just accept the aid package as Obama proposes. Moshe Kahlon, Israel’s finance minister and a former member of Netanyahu’s Likud Party, called on the prime minister this week to take the deal as it is, even though he acknowledged it could be better. Meanwhile, a member of Kahlon’s party, the former Israeli ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, has urged Netanyahu to go slow, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Elliott Abrams, a senior National Security Council official under President George W. Bush, told me he agrees with Oren. “If you do it this year, you will give Obama a talking point for why he is the best person for Israeli security, ever,” he said. “And Obama will misuse that in his last months in office to produce his parameters for the peace talks.”

Abrams has a point. Obama has been doing this since he came into office. He has boosted Israel’s defense subsidy, as he has distanced America from Israel in both the Iran negotiations and on settlement growth in the West Bank. The lavish military aid was political cover for a foreign policy Israel’s leaders opposed. Read the full story here.


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