Trump Admin Considering Demanding Israel Give Back Key U.S. Military Aid

State Dept. wants Trump to demand money back, sparking fight in Congress

By Adam Kredo, FREE BEACON

The Trump administration is considering forcing Israel to hand back some $75 million in U.S. aid dollars that were awarded by Congress following a hotly contested effort by the Obama administration to financially limit the U.S.-Israel military alliance, according to senior Congressional sources and others familiar with the situation.

Congress allocated Israel an additional $75 million in U.S. aid last year, bringing the total package to around $38 billion, despite attempts by the Obama administration to restrict Israeli efforts to lobby Congress in favor of greater funding for several key military projects.

Lawmakers had objected to the Obama administration’s last minute Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Israel, which capped U.S. aid dollars to the Jewish state and included a provision barring Israel from requesting greater financial assistance from the U.S. Congress.

Now, the Trump administration is considering forcing Israel to hand back the extra $75 million in order to stay in line with the Obama administration’s original MOU, according to multiple sources, who told the Free Beacon that Congress is preparing for a fight with the current administration if it chooses to move forward with the plan.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is said to be spearheading the effort to request Israel give back the additional funding, arguing that Israel must stick to the letter of the former Obama administration’s MOU, despite objections by Congress, sources told the Free Beacon.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) is said to have “strongly warned the State Department” earlier this week “that such action would be unwise and invite unwanted conflict with Israel,” according to one senior Congressional aide familiar with the situation.

Congressional leaders remain concerned that the Obama administration’s MOU with Israel limits lawmakers’ constitutional right to allocate U.S. aid dollars in whatever manner they see fit. The MOU has long been a cornerstone of the U.S.-Israel military alliance and Congress has traditionally amplified funding after consulting with Israeli counterparts.

The State Department is said to be engaged in a lobbying effort to convince the White House National Security Council (NSC) to allow it to request that Israel hand back the additional $75 million so it remains in line with the Obama administration’s MOU, sources said.

Cotton and other Congressional leaders see this as a reckless and unnecessary move that would only increase tensions with Israel at a time when the Jewish state and the U.S. are cooperating on a range of key issues, including the fight against ISIS, Iran, and other terrorist forces in the Middle East.

If the State Department does choose to demand that Israel hand back the money, Congress is prepared to strongly react, sources said.

Insiders who spoke to the Free Beacon about the brewing situation said the State Department-led effort is an attempt to undermine Congress and derail the White House’s strong working relationship with Israel.

Tillerson’s State Department has emerged as a source of tension inside the administration, with multiple sources telling the Free Beacon earlier this year that Foggy Bottom is perceived as being in “open war” with the White House on a range of key issues, including the U.S.-Israel relationship, the Iran portfolio, and other matters.

“This is a transparent attempt by career staffers in the State Department to f—k with the Israelis and derail the efforts of Congressional Republicans and President Trump to rebuild the US-Israel relationship,” according to one veteran congressional advisor who works extensively on Israel. “There’s no reason to push for the Israelis to return the money, unless you’re trying to drive a wedge between Israel and Congress, which is exactly what this is. It won’t work.”

Sources said there is an easy workaround to bring Israel in line with the MOU that would avoid sparking Congressional ire and tensions with the Trump administration.

This method involves clipping the additional $75 million from future appropriations for U.S.-Israel aid, a move that would quietly bring the countries back in line with the agreement and avoid public tensions.

“It’s not clear to me why the Secretary of State wishes to at once usurp the powers of the Congress and the derail his boss’s rapprochement with the Israeli government,” one longtime foreign policy operative familiar with the matter independently told the Free Beacon.

Sen. Lindsay Graham (R., S.C.) had held up passage of the 2016 MOU over disagreements with the Obama administration’s restriction about Israel personally lobbying Congress for increased funds.

“Congress is not a party to this agreement nor is this agreement binding on future congresses,” Graham said in a statement. “Congress has an independent duty to make a decision about the proper level of support for Israel or our other allies. To suggest this (agreement) will bind future presidents and congresses for the next decade is constitutionally flawed and impractical.”

Graham is said to have viewed it as an effort to trample on Congress’ right to allocate U.S. taxpayer funds and he worked to ensure Israel received the additional $75 million, which was included in the final fiscal year 2017 appropriations bill.

A State Department official, speaking on background, told the Free Beacon that the 2016 MOU “remains in place,” but would not specifically comment on internal deliberations about potentially requesting that Israel had back the millions in additional funding allocated by Congress.

Asked about the matter, an NSC official told the Free Beacon, “We are not going to comment on internal United States government discussions.”

September 9, 2017 | 19 Comments »

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19 Comments / 19 Comments

  1. @ LtCol Howard:

    American analysts have NEVER been correct Re; NoKO, Pakistan or India in detecting their nuke programs advanced states and acquiring the bomb. In each case they were taken by surprise.

    Deliberations over the sanctions against North Korea or Iran bring to memory the League of Nations talk before WWII. Was German refusal to pay reparations a casus belli? The remilitarization of the Rhineland? Extensive military production? No single such issue is a casus belli. Politicians bogged down in details don’t see the grand picture of imminent war. Then nor now.

    The West has repeatedly demonstrated its impotence in the face of nuclear proliferation. China got nuclear weapons with impunity. Pakistan got a slap on the wrist of sanctions. North Korea’s rulers bent under the weight of sanctions: the Japanese refused to sell them melons. Sanctions against Iran would hardly include oil, and even so the mullahs can do without the oil for some time—though the rising price of oil will be blamed on the sanctions.

    Iran needs a rhetorical, not a battlefield, enemy. Iran will use the bomb to gain dominance in the Muslim world. That spells the development of a shiite axis, huge discontent in the Arab world, and an arms race. Arab states will rush to develop nuclear weapons to be on a par with Iran. The Arabs know that Iran won’t attack Israel with nuclear weapons but could well attack them. Central Asian countries will also be concerned because Iran includes them in its sphere of dominance. They have oil money and Russian support against Iran, and will join the arms race, probably nuclear arms.

    Iran will give Israel’s enemies such as Syria or Hezbollah a nuclear shield. If or when the Muslim Brotherhood officially comes to power in Egypt and switches the policy to confrontation with Israel, Iranian nuclear protection will let them build the Egyptian army up in safety. An Arab nuclear umbrella invalidates Israel’s only viable military strategy, preemption. If Iran signs a mutual defense treaty with, say, Lebanon, Israel will be unable to operate against Hezbollah since, technically, every Israeli incursion into Lebanon is an aggression.

    Lebanon would be able to conduct an undeclared war against Israel, Egypt would mobilize and move its troops into the Sinai, but Israel—concerned with Iranian nuclear protection—could do nothing.

    Nuclear containment is a game of nerves. With Iranian nuclear warheads in Lebanon and Palestine, what would Israel do? Escalation, as Kennedy did in the Cuban missile crisis, is unlikely. Israel lost credibility when we did not stop Iran from deploying Zelzal-2 missiles in Beka’a. Iran will move nuclear weapons into Lebanon under a mutual defense treaty, a clearly protective measure. Every reasonable person would agree that Iranian nuclear weapons defend Lebanon, are not intended for aggression. The Israeli government won’t act, as it didn’t act against Egyptian, Libyan, Algerian, Moroccan, Pakistani, and Iranian nuclear facilities. Iran will win the war of nerves. Mutually assured destruction works against tiny Israel.

    With sufficiently aggressive leadership, Iran could give any state willing to attack Israel a nuclear umbrella. Iran could threaten nuclear retaliation against Israel if we attack enemy population centers or even anywhere deep in enemy territory. Soviet Union used that approach successfully in 1973. It gave Egypt SAM-5 anti-air missiles to limit Israeli operations to the front zone and moved the missiles with nuclear warheads to prevent Israeli nuclear retaliation. Iran could use the nuclear umbrella to inhibit Israeli preemption, penetrating strikes, and generally any combat on enemy territory. Bereft of the Sinai, Israel lacks territory of her own from which to conduct mobile defense. Iran’s nuclear capability opens the way for the Muslim world to encroach on Israel by conventional means.

  2. Also noteworthy in that timeline, Israel stopped receiving non-military “aid” in 2007, the year before Obama was elected. No military aid until 1959, and no serious aid until 1968. No aid at all until 1951 and then small amounts of economic and “other” aid including loans. No refugee resettlement aid until 1973.

  3. Israel received no military “aid” before winning the Six Day War alone. And no aid at all for the first couple of critical years. No refugee resettlement aid until 1973. Look a the footnotes. The economic and “other” aid included loans.

    See the following timeline

    U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel: Total Aid

    (1949 – Present)

    Israel’s unique contribution to US national security was summed up by the late General Alexander Haig, who was the Supreme Commander of NATO and US Secretary of State: “Israel is the largest, most battle-tested and cost-effective US aircraft carrier, which does not require even one American soldier, cannot be sunk and is located in a critical region for American national security and economic interests. If Israel did not exist – the US would have to deploy a few additional aircraft carriers to the Mediterranean, along with tens of thousands of military personnel, costing the US taxpayers $20BN annually and dragging the US into additional regional and international confrontations.”

    Israel constitutes a bonanza for the US defense industries, advancing US national security, employment, research & development and exports. In addition, Israel is a battle-proven laboratory, which has upgraded and refurbished hundreds of US military systems and technologies. It shares with the US most of these improvements, enhancing the competitive edge of the US defense industries, thus saving many US lives and mega billions of dollars in terms of new jobs, research and development. For instance, the current generation of the F-16 includes over 600 modifications introduced by Israel. Also, during the Cold War, Israel transferred to the US captured Soviet combat aircraft, radar and other military systems, which afforded the US a crucial advantage over the USSR, operationally and industrially.

    If there had been an Israel-like nation in the Persian Gulf, there would not be a need to dispatch hundreds of thousands of US military personnel to the region!

    Who’s aiding whom here?

  4. Most of the “aid” is corporate welfare for American companies that are in direct competition with Israeli companies, especially now that under Obama’s agreement, not even 25 percent of the aid will be spent in Israel, phased in over a few years. But, it’s still a slap in the face. Israel should respond by re-launching plans to make its own aircraft, the one that was quashed by America earlier. Israel is a sovereign country. And much stronger now. Standard and Poors gave Israel an A+ rating when the U.S. and much of the world was in recession. Israel should allow American investment in joint projects like Iron Dome but calling it “aid” is just insulting and the attached strings are intolerable.

  5. It is spring of 2019

    As a majority of Middle East analysts predicted, Iran was able to develop nuclear weapons. And by spring of 2019 Iran had somewhere between 5 and 10 operational weapons. {Delivery of these weapons was never a problem. Aircraft delivery had been solved in 1945. Trucks and ships were always possible. Missile range had been adequate since 2012. Warhead development may have been completed undetected. Iran and Hezbollah had violated Israel’s territory with drones.}

    At that point, bombing Iran would be fruitless since it would not destroy Iran’s nuclear capability, but would invite retaliation.

     Whether through concern about retaliation (assured mutual destruction theory) or rational calculations“ or for some other reason, Iran had not struck Israel.

    Regime change which had been a US and Western objective now appeared to be happening and the ruling Iranian regime appeared isolated and likely to be overthrown.


    The temptation had always been there, but now the logic of such a strike—a jihadist Hail Mary—might become persuasive.

     If the mullahs struck Israel would Israel strike back with its own nuclear weapons:? …    Or would the United States and the rest of the world say to Israel: “Whom would you  be killing, except millions of Iranians also struggling to topple the regime? ” [And wouldn’t this statement be correct?]


  6. @ LtCol Howard:

    This “solution” you suggest, selecting a community in the US from which to deprive $75m of spending, is rather like what I just said further down, in a different way, before I had read this post.

  7. @ LtCol Howard:

    I’m indeed sorry to hear that, I was sure it was the usual scaremongering headline artists.
    Still, If Israel gave the money back without any fuss, it would be an object lesson in some way, and cheap at the price, even obliquely intimating that “I don’t need your damned money” which would put the cat amongst the pigeons,…. (because America WANTS Israel attached to it’s apron strings and to be able to control it’s military and other sales to other countries)… although you are far more au fait with the situation, and I’m sure know more than I and in a more strategic sense.

  8. @ Edgar G.:These words unfortunately are correct. The haters of Jews and Israel in the State Department want to confrontation and they want the demand to be blunt.

  9. @ LtCol Howard: I try to edit and in doing so deleted my edited response thus my original response is a bit garbled. The motivation is to make a $75 million cut proposal into a threat to many many individual American programs, many many American communities and many many representatives and senators as well as an attack on the legislative responsibility and rights of Congress.

  10. @ Edgar G.:Handing back the money would just open up Israel to further attack since it would be considered a sign of retreat and surrender. What is going to do is respond with multiple unofficial voices. For example, I would have a series of lower-level people each suggest that the $75 million to be taken from a specific program naming the company in the United States and the major geographic area with the program is taking place. This would then place many, many US programs and US communities under the implied threat of a radical budget cut to their specific program. Further, I would cite the and senators and representatives for the communities involved. [In other words I would yell “fire” multiple times panicking numerous American companies and numerous American communities.] I would have multiple pundits claim this is a direct attack by the State Department on Congress and the rights of Congress to legislate. I would cite Lindsay Graham that Obama dictatorially and without any authority tried to control future congresses and future presidencies. Retreat, hell no. Attack on multiple fronts, hell yes.

  11. @ watsa46:

    Considering the special relationship, a quid pro quo should not be demanded or even asked for. Calm down. This sum is a drop in the bucket for Israel, who can well afford to do without the whole subsidy, but it comes in handy as all extra money does, and in particular pays for extra jobs for American workers which the Trump White House wants.
    Israel is doing the US a favour by taking the money, which just makes a circle and comes back to the pockets of American workers.

  12. @ Edgar G.:

    The headlines saying Trump considered “DEMANDING” and the beginning of the article using the word “FORCING” are contrary to Israel’s benefit. The writers should not deliberately inflame the senses of the readers with such rubbishy blatant words.

    This is pure incitement.

  13. I venture to speculate that in the end if the State Dept. does not back off on trying to get this money, Trump will tell Tillerson to have the matter dropped. Trump campaigned that Israel should not be bound on the MOU formed with Obama. We know Trump will keep to all his pro Israel campaign promises. Embassy is next.

  14. The State Dept is doubtless expecting to stir up rancor between Israel and the United States. It would defuse all theit plans if Israel quietly handed back the money, which she can wee afford to do, confounding the State Dept, and cutting short the looming Congressional embroglio. At the same time it would be all over the news. and Trump would see it, and be more than curious. It could put him idirect conflict with the SD.on a matter which wouldn’t quietly go away, leading to major changes in that body..

    The contrast with the Clinton Foundation would be glaring, and someone would bring this up, and as a one-time item, not lead to further lessening the yearly grant. In fact it might be the means of making it larger. if, when handed back, Israel created a well publicised pseudo scurry -round to make up for the sudden “shortfall”.In any event it would strengthen the already tight bond between the two countries………

    Just my opinion.



  15. It was the State Department that unilaterally inserted into a joint State Department/Defense Department study that the supreme leader of Iran was “rational”. A small group specially selected by John Brennan, James Comey etc.from the State Department, the CIA, and the FBI recklessly risked hostilities with Russia by claiming Russian interference in the US election and offered various stories as to the orders for this activity coming directly from Putin. In fact, the “plot” originated in the Brooklyn headquarters of Hillary Clinton. This State Department action is a continuing effort to attack Israel.