A key memorandum of understanding was signed at the State Department in Washington between Israel and the US last month on the future of US military aid to Israel.
The deal was mostly ignored by Arab official and media circles, without any expressions of concern or condemnation or even commitments that the MoU will be studied or its future impact on the power balance in the region explored. Except for a thorough study by one Arab research centre, the Arabs chose to ignore the new US-Israel military agreement for unknown reasons.
The deal covers the years 2019-2028 and is an extension of the agreement regulating military aid signed in 2007 until 2018. This long-term agreement is of great advantage, allowing the Israeli army to plan and coordinate its military purchasing and manufacturing plans well ahead of time and without disrupting any cooperation programmes with Washington. The deal also guarantees Israel’s qualitative edge in armament over all Arab countries combined.
National Security Advisor Susan Rice said during the signing ceremony that the MoU is not only beneficial for Israel but also the US: “When partners and allies such as Israel are more safe, then the US is more safe.”
No country other than Israel receives this form of military aid, and unlike what most people in Egypt believe, the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel sponsored by the US does not oblige Washington to provide military aid to the two sides.
Some in Cairo believe Washington is obligated to provide military aid to both countries. The truth is, aid to Egypt is neither in the agreement or its appendices. In fact, after the 30 June 2013 events, Washington suspended aid and later restored it under new conditions and important changes that angered – and continue to anger – Egypt.
The new deal worth $38 billion over 10 years, or $3.8 billion annually, is a huge sum considering Israel’s military budget is $15.5 billion annually, and it contains many technical details. Most importantly, it allocates $3.3 billion for new military purchases and $500 million for missile defence systems. This is very important because it guarantees funding for Israel’s anti-missile programmes until 2028.
The deal includes many details about new purchases spent in Israel and the US, developing Israeli weapons, contracts with third parties or subcontracting. Although military aide already increases the current $3.1 billion to $3.8 billion in the future, Tel Aviv was seeking $4-5 billion annually to reflect a drop in purchasing power and the rise in the price of weapons.
The agreement also requires Israel not to seek any more aid from Congress in the coming decade unless a military conflict erupts in the Middle East and Israel participates in it.
The US-Israel deal is not linked to Washington’s deal with Iran in the summer of 2015 and the US administration wanted to finalise the agreement before the US elections to credit the Democratic administration and boost the candidacy of Hillary Clinton in the presidential race.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham criticised the deal and said Israel would have made a better deal with a future Republican administration. Graham also criticised that it restricts Congress on increasing Israeli assistance.
Some experts believe President Obama rushed the deal four months before leaving the White House to give himself leverage to pressure Israel to move on the peace process, which remains stagnant on the bilateral track and in the UN.
Others believe the Israeli government is uncomfortable with a win for Republican candidate Donald Trump in the presidential race, since he does not believe in foreign aid without a clear quid pro quo, which Israel does not provide.
Some thought that Washington’s signing of a nuclear deal with Tehran – which was publicly opposed in Israel and caused Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to visit Washington and address Congress to warn against the deal – indicates a serious fracture between the US and Israel.
Some also assumed that the lack of chemistry between Obama and Netanyahu would negatively impact bilateral relations between the two countries, but the bond between the US and Israel is unaffected.
A quick look at Washington’s voting record at the UN General Assembly or Security Council reveals a reality that Arabs ignore voluntarily or involuntarily. Israel used its anger over the Iran deal to procure a better deal with more assistance than in the past.
When Gulf states were angered by the Iran deal, Washington quickly appeased them by signing arms deals worth $100 billion, which filled the pockets of US arms manufacturers.
Meanwhile, Egypt hasn't restored its previous military relations with Washington and lost the advantage of cash flow financing. Deals will be made year-by-year and purchased weapons will be used in four operations: securing borders, securing the seas, combatting illegal migration, and combatting terrorism. None of these are a threat to Israel, and in fact some of them aid Israeli security considerations.
The writer is a political commentator.