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US, Israel to Sign Record Military Aid Deal

  • VOA News

FILE - An Israeli soldier walks past tanks near the Israel and Gaza border, July 10, 2014.

FILE - An Israeli soldier walks past tanks near the Israel and Gaza border, July 10, 2014.

U.S. officials said the United States would sign a record 10-year multibillion-dollar security assistance deal with Israel on Wednesday — "the single largest pledge of bilateral military assistance in U.S. history."

The State Department confirmed the deal Tuesday, without placing a dollar figure on the aid package. But sources close to the deal said it was valued at $38 billion. The current 10-year package, which expires in 2018, is valued at $31 billion. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu originally sought $4.5 billion annually.

U.S. officials said the new deal would phase out Israel's ability to spend part of the U.S. funding on Israeli military products. Instead, it would require the Jewish state to buy U.S.-made weaponry. It also would end Israel's practice of seeking additional funds from Congress beyond what had been guaranteed in earlier packages.

Israel's chief negotiator, Jacob Nagel, the acting head of Netanyahu's national security council, was reported to be in Washington ahead of the signing ceremony. He was expected to sign the deal with U.S. Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon.

Negotiations leading to the deal were largely concluded weeks ago. But the package was delayed over a dispute between the Obama administration and a key U.S. lawmaker, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who had argued for a more generous and less restrictive aid package.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that the dispute centered on disagreement about funds for Israeli missile defense. The Obama administration insisted on limiting missile defense spending to $500 million a year, and on including that sum in the annual aid disbursement. Graham, whose Senate appropriations subcommittee oversees foreign aid, wanted to retain the practice that allowed Israel to lobby Congress for ad hoc disbursements earmarked for missile defense.

U.S. lawmakers in recent years have provided Israel with up to $600 million in discretionary funding for missile defense.

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