Today, the United States and Israel will sign an agreement on a 10-year military aid package, $38 billion in all, from 2019 to 2028. The memorandum of understanding is being touted by the State Department as “the single largest pledge of bilateral military assistance in U.S. history,” and strictly speaking that is correct. Considering the tense relations between the two governments over the past eight years, the pact is a tribute to the resilience and the strength of a U.S.-Israel alliance. The fact that the Obama administration has chosen to make this commitment for its successors illustrates that the security relationship transcends the president’s antipathy for Prime Minister Netanyahu and his predilection for picking fights with the Israelis. Moreover, by locking in what are, at least on the surface, higher levels of aid over such a long period, the deal allows Israel to plan for the future and to hopefully maintain its qualitative military edge over potential foes.
But as much as Obama deserves credit for agreeing to the aid package, the subtext to this negotiation is not without worries for those who care about the alliance. The real question is why the aid is now so vital and whether this announcement will be followed by shifts in U.S. policy that will endanger the Jewish state’s security in other ways.
The unfortunate context for the 10-year agreement is another pact that also stretches out over a similar period: the Iran nuclear deal. The administration’s decision to push for an extension of the annual aid package was in large part an effort to offset the impact of their policy on Iran.
Obama’s appeasement of Iran has, at best, put Iran’s quest for a nuclear weapon on hold for a decade. But it has also ended the international sanctions that had isolated the Iranians. This means that a country dedicated to Israel’s destruction, as well as bent on achieving regional hegemony, is now more dangerous than ever. Complicating the strategic equation even further are the Obama administration’s efforts to withdraw from the Middle East, effectively leaving the field clear for both a resurgent Russia and its sometime ally Iran. That means President Obama’s signature foreign policy achievement will not only fail to stop Iran from getting a bomb but has also created a more challenging security environment for Israel.
So while it’s good that Israel is getting help coping with this dilemma, Obama is the author of the problem the deal seeks to fix.