Maybe it’s guilt. Maybe it’s the reality that he’s only got 126 days left before his presidency is consigned to history. Whatever it is, President Obama has been hard at work repairing his legacy. Today he tried to patch a big hole: the United States has promised Israel up to $3.8 billion a year in military aid over the next 10 years.
“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,” Obama said. “The continued supply of the world’s most advanced weapons technology will ensure that Israel has the ability to defend itself from all manner of threats.”
“It is because of this same commitment to Israel and its long-term security that we will also continue to press for a two-state solution to the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict, despite the deeply troubling trends on the ground that undermine this goal,” Obama continued.
The agreement includes an annual $500 million carve-out for developing missile defense systems. Israel has promised not to approach Congress for additional budgets for missile defense, except in an emergency, and only with the agreement of the administration. The previous MOU allowed Israel to lobby for additional funding every year beyond its $3.1 billion aid package.
Israel can still request Congressional aid for tunnel defenses and cyber warfare. There are also some limitations the Israelis agreed to regarding their current allocation of aid for equipment from Israel defense industries and for fuel purchases.
The agreement marks a repair in what has been a serious breach in relations between the Jewish state and the Obama administration, highlighted by personal animus between Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Obama. Netanyahu is a personal friend of Mitt Romney, Obama’s 2012 opponent, and was seen as approaching a line of interference in that election.
Obama has been accused of offering direct assistance to Netanyahu’s political opponents, but both men have remained in office. Possibly this deal is simply the realization of realities in the Middle East.
President Obama created this mess, all by himself. His bungling of the Syrian situation, which Israel correctly predicted several years ago*, his bowing to Iran despite continued warnings of duplicity, and his feckless belief in the so-called “Arab Spring” to soften Islamic anti-Semitism have taken a toll. Israel has felt almost alone in many ways, but still enjoys a special relationship with the U.S. regardless of who is president.
This new deal, along with the latest deal with Russia on the mess in Syria, are likely last-minute attempts by a failed president to repair himself for historians, who at least for the near term will always view him through rose-colored glasses for being the first African American president (on his dad’s side).
Israel will need the aid to deal with the ever-growing threat of a nuclear Iran that now boasts $150 billion (plus $1.1 billion in untraceable foreign hard currency) to spend on its weapons. History will judge Obama very poorly for that. Maybe future generations will absolve Obama for the equivalent of a deathbed confession. They’ll look at this and say: “He knows he sinned a great sin.”
*Several years ago, before the Syrian civil war, I attended a series of talks by an Israeli intelligence officer. While he didn’t give out any classified information–this was a public talk–he did say that Israel knew exactly what is happening on the ground in Syria. He said that Assad would never leave office alive, that Assad’s Alawite Muslim minority sect is hated by the Sunnis, which make up 74 percent of Syria, and would be slaughtered if Assad stepped down (including Assad’s entire extended family).
He told us that the Alawites would fight to the death to defend their territory in northwest Syria (where the Russians currently operate from). He said that Israel’s primary concern is the transfer of chemical weapons or WMD’s to Hezbollah or other terror groups. ISIS didn’t exist at the time. Israel had a status quo ante balance with Assad, who knew he could not overcome Israeli defenses.
Syria’s radicalized Sunnis now fuel ISIS, while its “Twelver” Shia sect enjoys good relations with Iran. Obama’s ham-handed naiveté has totally destabilized every relationship in the Levant, giving Iran and Russia more influence and cash than they could possibly have ever hoped for.
Obama almost single-handedly isolated Assad, empowered Hezbollah, which is now just an extension of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and put Saudi Arabia and Jordan at constant risk of a coup. Israel foresaw all of this, and repeatedly, forcefully–even at times compromising intelligence security–warned the U.S. about this happening. Obama’s raw hubris and dedication to his own disastrous policies made this mess.