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Friday, September 15, 2017
Report: Tillerson pushes for Israel to return millions in U.S. aid
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly
has been pushing the Trump White House to demand that Israel give back to the
United States millions of dollars in military aid. The Trump White House
reportedly is pushing back on this demand. So are members of Congress,
including our friend Sen. Tom Cotton.
Here’s the back story,
as I understand it. Last year, President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu
signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding U.S. aid to Israel. It
replaced a 2007 MOU reached during the Bush administration.
The 2016 MOU raised the amount of
U.S. aid to Israel over the next decade to $38 billion, or $3.8 billion a year.
This represented a very slight increase over the $30 billion in the previous
MOU. In constant 2016 dollars, the 2007 MOU pledged close to $36 billion in
However, unlike the previous MOU, the
2016 document stipulated that Israel may not request any additional funds from
Congress during the next decade nor accept any offered from 2017 to 2018.
Under previous MOUs, Congress has regularly exceeded the minimum amount of aid
pledged, e.g., by providing funds for Israel’s defense during major conflicts
and extra allocations for the defensive Iron Dome anti-missile shield.
Notwithstanding the MOU, and quite
likely in reaction to it, Congress decided to pledge an extra $75 million in
aid to Israel. The vote was bipartisan. It is this money that Tillerson
reportedly wants to reclaim. However, the State Department denies that
he seeks to do so.
It seems to me that the United
States, as a party to the MOU, has the right to relieve Israel from its
obligations under it, especially the obligation not to accept money that
Congress appropriates and the current president approves of spending. The MOU
language represents yet another attempt by Barack Obama to extend his control
over U.S. policy beyond the end of his administration. The appropriate response
is “nice try.”
The U.S. would be within its rights
to demand the $75 million back, but it is not required to do so. Thus, the
question is whether demanding the return is good policy.
I agree with Sen. Cotton who reportedly
believes such action would be unwise and would invite unwanted conflict
with Israel, and has told the White House so. This apparently was also the
position of longtime State Department officials working on the Israel
portfolio. But, if reports are correct, Tillerson rejected this view in favor
of State Department lawyers and members of his own staff.
Regardless of whether Tillerson is
pushing to reclaim aid money from Israel, he has been a disappointment as
Secretary of State. His line on Israel and the Iran deal, to name just two
issues, seems at variance with the president he serves. And his suggestion
that Trump does not represent “the American people’s values,” but rather
“speaks for himself” probably should disqualify him from further service to the
Tillerson has distanced himself from
the president sufficiently to be welcomed back by corporate America and all the
right clubs. A parting of the ways seems likely and perhaps desirable.
Ed.SO, a Muslim president tried to extend
his authority after his term of office and screw Israel. Seems hard to believe,
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