Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has “pulled the rug” from under the feet of pro-Israeli members of Congress by rushing to sign the new $38 billion 10-year “memorandum of understanding” with the Obama administration, Senator Lindsey Graham said on Friday.
“Here is what I would tell Bibi: ‘When members of Congress come to Israel, you do a great job talking about the State of Israel’s needs and threats. Well, don’t tell us about all those needs and when we try to help you, you pull the rug from under us,'” Graham said in a conference call with American Jewish community leaders. “I think that is bad for Israel.”
On Wednesday, the Obama administration and the Israeli government signed the new decade-long security assistance package, which was described as the “single largest pledge of bilateral military assistance in U.S. history.” Under the agreement, Israel also committed not to approach Congress for additional budgets for missile defense systems, and “volunteered” to give back any money Congress gives above the MOU’s limits, The Washington Post reported. According to Graham, Netanyahu signed a letter to the administration saying the government will not accept any appropriated money above the MOU amount.
Graham called the agreement “absurd.”
“How do you do that?” he asked rhetorically. “I mean, how do you construct an executive branch MOU that has the power to shut out Congress and the next president? .. I don’t think it’s appropriate to have an agreement which shuts the next president and the next Congress out. I don’t think that it’s appropriate to have an agreement which shuts out me out and my colleagues. We appropriated $3.4 billion based on what I was told were the needs of Israel.”
Graham suggested that Netanyahu signed the agreement with the Obama administration because “he has got domestic political problems” and “he wanted to show he could work with Obama… Bibi made a decision he wanted to do a deal with Obama.”
“I am going to push back. We will see what Bibi does. But I will tell you right now, from my point of view, the prime minister has made a mistake here, and, basically, setting up a situation where his friends in Congress – on both sides of the aisle – can’t help Israel apart from what this president says.”
In a subtle reference to recent polls show Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) emerging as a strong challenger to Netanyahu, Graham asserted that the agreement has a lot of unintended consequences for “future prime ministers.”
A recent poll showed Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party would receive 27 Knesset seats, while the ruling Likud would go down from its present 30 seats to only 23.
“I think Bibi is in a bad spot, politically,” he added. “Well, I am not. You know what? We are not going to let this agreement be turned into something that is dangerous for the checks and balances in our government. We are not going to let this president take the power of Congress away when it comes to helping allies. And in the end of the day, I would tell our friends in Israel: Congress is your friend. Don’t pull the rug from under us.”
Graham also suggested that Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, would “give you a better deal than this.” He also said that Clinton (“I don’t know if she wins”) would be “more generous to Israel.”