A group of Republican senators on Tuesday announced they would seek to overturn certain provisions of the new $38 billion 10-year “memorandum of understanding” signed last week between Israel and the Obama administration by adding an additional $1.5 billion in military aid to Israel.
The funding – $750 million for missile defense and $750 million in direct military assistance – will be amended to the extension of the Iran Sanctions Act before the end of the year.
Senators Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Kelly Ayotte and Ted Cruz said they were objected to a provision in the agreement preventing Israel from approaching Congress for additional funds, and Israel volunteering to give back any money Congress gives above the MOU’s limits.
“This is a very dramatic moment in the U.S.-Israel relationship between Congress and the state of Israel. Congress is not going to sit on the sidelines,” Graham, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, said in a press conference on Capitol Hill. “How do you feel about the idea that a president would knock you out of the business of doing your job, going around the Congress, trying to get a president of a foreign government to collude so you don’t have the power of the purse?”
“To the president, if you don’t like this bill, veto it,” the South Carolina Senator said defiantly. “To a senator, if you think this is too much, vote against it.”
On Friday, as first reported by Jewish Insider, Graham accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of pulling the rug from under the feet of pro-Israeli members of Congress by rushing to sign the security assistance deal with President Obama. “I am going to push back. We will see what Bibi does,” he said during a conference call with Jewish community leaders. “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.”
Graham said he would introduce legislation to overturn another provision that phased out a special arrangement that has allowed Israel for decades to use 26.3 percent of the U.S. aid on its own defense industry instead of on U.S. weapons, according to Reuters.
“Now is not the time to say that we’re going to nickel and dime Israel,” Graham declared.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz said at the press conference that the new MOU is an “important baseline” but “Congress can and must play an ongoing, active role in making sure that the alliance is adequately maintained” and “retain the discretion to increase assistance as circumstances warrant.”
Like Graham, Cruz suggested that Netanyahu was forced into signing the agreement with the current administration. “I understand why Israel felt it had no choice but to sign this agreement,” he said, according to reporter Jamie Lovegrove. Nonetheless, he said, “These are perilous times for the nation of Israel” and they need a “concrete demonstration” of support from Congress.
Senators Mark Kirk and Marco Rubio also announced their support for the proposed legislation.
“President Obama’s disastrous nuclear deal with Iran and the billions of dollars the regime has received in sanctions relief and ransom payments have put Israel at greater risk,” Rubio said in a statement. “Increasing America’s security assistance to Israel is the least we can do to help our close friend and ally given the enriched and empowered enemy they now face.”