Netanyahu Urged By Some Advisers To Cut Military Deal With Obama

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Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and his aides are watching the U.S. election with confusion and concern, unsure of Donald Trump and uneasy over Hillary Clinton. Some advisers are therefore urging him to seal a military aid package with someone he has long mistrusted — President Barack Obama.

“It should be tied up now,” says Zalman Shoval, Netanyahu’s former ambassador to Washington, leader of a group of retired diplomats who advise the government on the U.S.-Israel relationship. “It is risky for Israel to let the existing agreement run out without knowing the drift of the future administration.”

Israel is the biggest recipient of U.S. foreign aid, $3.1 billion in 2016. Having failed to persuade the United States not to sign a nuclear deal with Iran last year, it is asking for an increase — as much as $5 billion a year for the next 10 years — to help it counter Iranian missiles, Iranian-backed militants in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, and affiliates of al-Qaida and Islamic State in Syria and Egypt. The White House is offering something under $4 billion, according to officials in both countries.

The question Netanyahu and his advisers are mulling is whether a better deal could be negotiated with Obama’s replacement. Many suspect not, although none would say so on the record. David Keyes, a spokesman, declined all comment.

Trump has sent mixed messages. On one hand, he has vowed to defend Israel in a way he contends Obama has not, and made a video endorsing Netanyahu for a third term in office in 2013. On the other hand, Trump has said he would remain “neutral” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has spoken of reducing U.S. aid abroad as part of his plan to put his country’s interests first and improve the economy.

Clinton speaks often of her devotion to Israel. Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, is loved by Israelis for his close relationship with Yitzhak Rabin, the assassinated prime minister. But her relationship with Netanyahu has been rocky on occasion. As secretary of state, she phoned and berated him for 45 minutes after an announcement of new Jewish construction in predominantly-Arab East Jerusalem when Vice President Joseph Biden was visiting. And the influence of Bernie Sanders’ campaign on the Democratic Party is pulling it to the left toward concern for the Palestinians and impatience with Israeli occupation.

Some U.S.-based analysts of the relationship with Israel agree that signing a deal now makes sense.

“I just think it looks really bad for the prime minister to leave this particular file open,” said Aaron David Miller, vice president of the Wilson Center in Washington and once a key member of the U.S. team for Mideast peace talks. “He lost the Iran deal, he’s got nothing to show for what was supposed to be the most skillful and willful effort on the part of an Israeli prime minister to keep the Iranians away from the bomb. Even though it may be clear to the Israeli public that he didn’t get everything he needed, he has a stake in going ahead.”

The view is far from unanimous with others suggesting that the animosity between Obama and Netanyahu is too great and that either Trump or Clinton would be more generous. They say Netanyahu should not hand Obama another foreign policy victory.

Danny Ayalon, another former Israeli envoy to Washington, says the agreement should be signed with Obama only if some of the conditions the White House has placed on increased aid are removed. Among them are requiring Israel to swear off requests for additional funds over the 10-year life of the package and to spend a greater portion of the funds in the U.S., up from the current threshold of about 75 percent. “That’s where the compromise would be,” he said.

Israel has long brought bipartisan support in the United States although in the past decade, as Israel has moved to the right and the Democrats to the left, it has become more of a Republican cause. The trouble is that, apart from Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino tycoon and Netanyahu patron, many key Republican advocates for Israel do not endorse Trump whom they consider unpredictable and isolationist.

Israeli leaders note that Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, converted to Judaism and married a Jew, and the young couple is strongly pro-Israel. But they worry about Trump’s frequent shifts in position.

“It’s very difficult for us to get our political coordinates here,” says Marc Zell, co-chairman of Republicans Overseas in Israel. “We listened to his comment about being opposed to a building freeze in Judea and Samaria. That’s a great thing. On the other hand he made a big point about being neutral in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. That cuts the other way.”

Netanyahu aides are in touch with the Trump campaign and are trying behind the scenes to influence his pronouncements. Still, the prime minister will be careful if Trump shows up in Jerusalem, according to an adviser. The Israeli leader was criticized for an appearance with Republican Mitt Romney on his campaign visit to Israel in 2012.

Tension with Democrats stretched to the breaking point last year when Netanyahu accepted the Republican leadership’s invitation to speak before Congress against Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. Netanyahu will try to appear non-partisan if Clinton visits, even though “his mindset is completely Republican,” the adviser said.

Palestinians, who feel the U.S. cares far more about Israel’s needs than theirs, are largely ignoring the race. A recent poll in the West Bank asked which candidate would be better for them. Seventy percent said they see no difference.

Meanwhile, Jewish settlers there say they take heart from Trump’s history.

“Trump is a builder,” said David Rubin, former mayor of the settlement of Shilo. “He’s a bulldozer. Given the situation as it is, why shouldn’t Israel be building? I think he gets it on a very gut level.”

(c) 2016, Bloomberg · Jonathan Ferziger 



  1. I always thought Israel was a banana republic to the world, now I know. When a country has to decide what to do financially and militarily depending on who the president of another country will be, you have to be a banana republic and not a sovereign nation. A sovereign nation does not depend on other nations for security, financially, and it does not have to decide who is the president they can appease more. When Israel decides it is truly a nation then there may be peace in Israel and it’s leaders will truly be leaders of a people, not followers.

    • Matzav:
      Ask yourself (selves?): Does allowing this individual’s constant trolling add or subtract from your site’s appeal?
      – Some trolls are funny.
      – Some trolls are intelligent.
      – This one is neither. This one is simply an annoying, grating one-trick pony whose last original thought coincided with his first one many, many posts ago.

  2. Trump also has said that Israel needs to pay back all the aid it has received from the US in the past. The Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, has in the past called for an end to all US aid to all countries, including Israel. Clinton is the only safe choice for pro-Israel voters. Here is what she says on her campaign web site:

    “Clinton believes that Israel’s security is a national priority for the United States. Israel must be able to defend itself by itself. As President, she will:

    Increase support for rocket and missile defense, including Iron Dome and David’s Sling, and push to expand missile defense to northern Israel, so that Israel can defend itself against rocket attacks and medium-range missiles, and push for push for better tunnel detection technology to better protect Israel from infiltration by terrorists and weapons;

    Guarantee Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge to ensure the IDF is equipped to deter and defeat aggression from the full spectrum of threats;

    Renew the U.S.-Israel Memorandum of Understanding, providing a 10-year U.S. commitment to provide Israel with the security assistance it needs to maintain the most capable military in the Middle East;

    Expand shared security and intelligence operations and U.S.-Israel military exercises;

    Partner with Israel to advance the two-state vision of a Jewish and democratic Israel with secure and recognized borders.”

    • Trump also has said that Israel needs to pay back all the aid it has received from the US in the past.
      1) Trump never said ALL the aid. That would be a crushing burden (over $100 billion) that Israel couldn’t possibly bear. What Trump said was that countries which receive U.S. military aid should pay for it. When asked if that included Israel, he replied (to paraphrase) “Yes”.
      2) Trump immediately (on the same day) reversed himself about Israel being required to pay back anything.

      Partner with Israel to advance the two-state vision of a Jewish and democratic Israel with secure and recognized borders.
      This can very easily be understood as not a pro-Israel statement, but rather an edict that Israel must give up all disputed territories, including East Jerusalem. This is very different from former president George W. Bush’s acceptance of “land swaps”, support of which President Obama (no friend of Israel or Prime Minister Netanyahu) has since rescinded.


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