South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham blasted President Obama this week, condemning his refusal to increase American aid to Israel, as well as his efforts to bar Israel from spending the aid money within the Jewish state.
Speaking to Haaretz, Graham revealed that Israel had previously requested an increased aid package from the White House, with $4 billion a year for regular military funding, plus $600 million towards Israel’s missile defense network.
But, Graham said, the administration rejected the request, despite similar increases to Arab states, such as Jordan.
“I made a decision, given the deterioration in the region, that Israel needs more funding,” said Graham. “In the last three years, we increased funding to Jordan by $275 million outside of the MoU, because Jordan was under siege.”
“The administration didn’t object to that increase, but they are objecting to the increase to Israel for 2017.”
In 2015 the White House announced plans to raise the amount of aid to Jordan by more than 50%, topping $1 billion per year.
Despite Obama’s rejection of Israel’s aid request, Graham noted, Congress is under no obligations to abide by any agreements the White House makes with Israel.
“I am not bound by the MoU as a member of Congress. Congress is not a party to the MoU and the MoU can’t bind Congress. Everybody in Congress wants to be generous to Israel like we did with Jordan.”
Graham added that Congress overwhelmingly backed not only an increase in funding for Israel, but opposed the president’s goal of ending the convertibility of a portion of the aid package to shekels, allowing Israel to use the money to pay for fuel or purchase arms from domestic producers.
While Israel is currently allowed to spend a portion of the aid money in Israel, Obama has sought to gradually end the practice, requiring that the aid be spent entirely within the US.
“Eighty-three senators signed a letter to the president that we be generous towards Israel. It is my belief that there are not even 10 members of Senate who object to allowing the IDF to buy fuel from U.S. aid money or [object] that the money be used to boost Israeli defense industries. I have never heard one member of Congress concerned about this.”
In voicing his support for elevated levels of military aid to the Jewish state, Graham noted the increased geostrategic threats facing Israel.
“Netanyahu told me Hezbollah received from Iran precision-guided missiles that are military game-changers,” he said. “According to the prime minister and his team, these missiles present a greater threat than presented previously.”
“I want Iran to see that Israel gets more support from the U.S. and not less. I want to send a signal to Iran that while they get stronger, our allies in the region also get stronger. I don’t think it is an American interest for Iran to think we are negotiating a deal with Israel that is less generous.”