Despite sequestration and protracted fiscal constraints, Israel can expect an additional decade of sustained and possibly increased levels of security assistance once its current $30 billion, 10-year military aid package expires in 2018, former US officials here said.
Recently launched negotiations to extend aid through 2027 should yield an agreement that exceeds the $3.1 billion Israel now receives in annual Foreign Military Financing (FMF) grant aid, said Stuart Eizenstat, a former official who negotiated an earlier aid package on behalf of the Administration of then-President Bill Clinton.
“Support for Israel in the United States is astonishing. There’s no other foreign country favored in terms of assistance; and this support is bipartisan, bicameral and largely protected by sequestration,” said Eizenstat, whose last in a series of high-level government posts was deputy Treasury secretary under Clinton.
When asked at a June 17 talk with Israeli business leaders if Washington would be willing or even able to sustain current FMF levels to Israel, Eizenstat replied, “I have no concerns that aid to Israel will be diminished. The question is rather by how much will it increase.”
According to the former US official, now a partner in the Washington-based Covington & Burling law firm, “It is in the interest of Congress and future administrations to sustain or even enhance aid to Israel, particularly given the turmoil in this region and all the threats and pressures on Israel.”
Howard Berman, a former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also said Washington can be expected to sustain and probably increase annual military aid to Israel. The former democratic congressman from California noted, however, that the resumption of long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations would “improve the climate” for securing domestic support for a new 10-year aid deal.
“From the inside of the [appropriations] process, I can tell you the special and strong relationship with Israel is enduring… It is not linked to any particular issue,” Berman said.
Nevertheless, the 28-year congressional veteran of US-Israel strategic cooperation said “forward movement” toward a two-state, Israel-Palestine peace deal “would be very appreciated” in key constituencies.
In a visit here in March, President Barack Obama announced his support for a new agreement to extend annual military aid through 2027.
“Our current agreement lasts through 2017, and we’ve directed our teams to start working on extending it for the years beyond,” Obama told reporters at a joint press conference in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The current agreement, signed in 2007, elevated Israel’s annual grant aid from $2.4 billion to $3.1 billion, and Israeli officials here expect the follow-on package to provide incremental boosts to nearly $4 billion per year.
In parallel, the two countries are discussing prospects for financing billions of dollars in Pentagon-proposed weapons through US government-backed bridge loans that would be repaid with FMF to come from the future 10-year military aid package.