Largest-ever US military aid package to go to Israel

Updated 10:18 PM EDT, Tue September 13, 2016
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Story highlights

US, Israel reach deal worth as much as $38 billion

Secret negotiations over military aid took months

(CNN) —  

The Obama administration is upping aid to Israel as part of the largest pledge of military assistance in US history.

Israel is set to get about $38 billion over 10 years, according to congressional and administration sources, up from the approximately $30 billion decade-long deal that expires in 2018.

The Memorandum of Understanding sealing the arrangement will be signed Wednesday at the State Department.

Talks to reach an agreement took months, unfolding behind closed doors at a time when US-Israel ties were strained by tensions between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli frustration over the nuclear pact with Iran.

“It’s an important message to the region that nobody should misread the differences between the US and Israel when it comes to Iran or policy differences when it comes to the Palestinians,” said David Makovsky, director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “At the core, the US remains very committed to Israel’s long-term security.”

Israeli perceptions that sanctions relief provided as part of the nuclear deal would allow Tehran to wreak greater havoc in the region drove Jersusalem’s argument that the deal should be much larger than previous packages. Regional unrest in Syria and Iraq deepened Israeli concerns.

READ: Opinion: Why Iran deal is good for Israel

New York Representative Nita Lowey, the highest-ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement Tuesday that the agreement would put Israel “in a better position to address turmoil and instability in the region and therefore be able to better protect its citizens and secure its borders.”

Some reports put Netanyahu’s initial aid request as high as $45 billion. In the end, political imperatives may have driven both sides toward an agreement.

A long-standing ally

Obama will be able to leave the White House in an election year saying that Democrats have done more than any other party to protect a long-standing ally. His party’s presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, can claim part of that legacy as Obama’s former secretary of state and will likely pledge to continue those policies in her campaign appeals to pro-Israel voters.