9/16/2016 Obama Gets his revenge
They say that revenge is a dish best served cold. it’s clear that President Obama got his revenge on Prime Minister Netanyahu this week. Netanyahu was forced to hail the new Memorandum of Understanding signed between Washington and Jerusalem as a historic achievement for Israel. It is in nominal terms the largest commitment of aid that the United States has ever given to any country. Politically Netanyahu cannot afford to admit that the agreement is far from perfect and his spokesman constantly repeated what an excellent agreement it is.. Obama too hailed the agreement stating “The new MOU constitutes the single largest pledge of military assistance in U.S. history, totaling $38 billion over 10 years, including $33 billion in FMF funds and an additional $5 billion in missile defense funding. Both Prime Minister Netanyahu and I are confident that the new MOU will make a significant contribution to Israel’s security in what remains a dangerous neighborhood.”
Critics of the agreement led by Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak point out that the numbers are misleading. The agreement is the largest amount of aid ever only in nominal terms. Adjusted for inflation the agreement is actually smaller that the previous MOU signed ten years ago. The critics who also include Amos Yadlin the former Commander of Military Intelligence posit that if Netanyahu had not addressed Congress in opposition to the Iran agreement, Israel would have been given better terms. They assert that Israel would have received more money and without the two restrictive terms that may be harmful for Israel. The first condition agreed to in the memorandum eliminates the long-standing practice of allowing Israel to use 25% of the aid for local purchases. The second is Israel’s commitment not to ask for any supplemental money from the Congress. Israel has further sent a letter committing to return any extra money if Congress were to allocate it. It’s with this provision that Obama gets revenge on his three major opponents simultaneously without he nor his preferred successor paying any price.
By putting a provision in the agreement that Israel will not lobby Congress for additional funds and will return any it receives, he undermines the very existence of AIPAC the American Israeli Public Affair Committee. AIPAC made a fatal mistake, when it decided to publicly fight the Iran accord. If Israel cannot request and will in fact return any funds allocated to it by Congress one of the key functions of AIPAC is eliminated. Furthermore one of AIPACs key achievements
of the last few decades was Israel's ability to use part of the assistance to fund local purchases. This has been eliminated.
Lastly Obama gets to reassert the primacy of the Executive Branch in the making of foreign policy . For decades Congress has ‘interfered’ in US relations with Israel by allocating addition funds that various administrations have been reluctant to give. By forcing Israel to sign a letter stating that it will return any additional money Obama has removed Congress’s ability to interfere in the process.
Finally by getting Netanyahu to sign the agreement Obama has given ammunition to some of Netanyahu’s biggest critics. Ehud Barak the former Prime Minister and Defense Minister has dominated the news cycle in Israel for the last two days after he published a scathing Op-ed in the Washington Post in which he criticized Netanyhu using the new agreement as the club against him.
Obama accomplished all this by wrapping the more problematic aspects of the agreement into a $38 billion package of assistance. Who can possibly criticize Obama for not being supportive of Israel after all he just allocated $38 Billion for its defense?
So why did Netanyahu sign this agreement instead of waiting for the next president? Until he writes his memoirs we will never be sure. But what seems to be the best explanation, is that he is petrified by what might happen if Trump is elected. While Trump is popular among many right wing Israelis, Netanyahu has a much more sophisticated understanding of the world Israel lives in. A Trump victory would introduce a level of uncertainty into the world that Israel fears. Nobody has any idea what Trump might do as president and that is something new in international relations. The same goes for foreign aid. As the biggest recipient of American fpreign aid not to mention diplomatic support, nothing gets the Israeli security establishment as nervous as Trumps comments that America has to worry about America first. Israel like the rest of the world has greatly benefited from the US being the benign hegemon` in the world. The possibility that a Trump presidency could change that is very troubling to most of the Israeli leadership. Netanyahu probably decided to sign the current agreement instead of gambling with Israel’s future that he could do better with a President Trump or President Clinton. By signing the agreement Netanyahu is effectively helping Clinton, since this agreement takes the questions of the Democratic Party’s commitment to Israel off the table. For President Obama this is an amazing personal political achievement. It’s too bad he could not use these skills to solve other world problems like Syria.
Obama Netanyahu 09/30/2013