U.S. Senators Seek to Overturn Parts of New Israel Aid Package

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
FILE - Prime Minister Netanyahu seen with senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain (L), at the PM's office in Yerushalayim. (Kobi Gideon/ GPO/Flash90/FILE)
FILE – Prime Minister Netanyahu seen with senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain (L), at the PM’s office in Yerushalayim. (Kobi Gideon/ GPO/Flash90/FILE)

Four Republican U.S. lawmakers said on Tuesday they would seek to overturn parts of a $38 billion military aid agreement with Israel, setting up a showdown with President Barack Obama over the package days after it was signed.

Senators Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte, John McCain and Ted Cruz told a news conference they wanted to add a measure giving Israel an additional $1.5 billion in military aid to a bill expected later this year to renew U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Arguing that Congress, not the administration, sets spending policy under U.S. law, they objected to a provision in the agreement preventing Israel from asking for additional funds from Congress after the new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), begins at the end of fiscal 2018.

“This is a very dramatic moment in the U.S.-Israel relationship between Congress and the state of Israel. Congress is not going to sit on the sidelines,” Graham said.

The four senators also object to Israel’s agreement to return any money if Congress tries to send it more than $3.8 billion per year before then.

Graham said he would introduce legislation to cancel a provision in the agreement that phased out a special arrangement that has allowed Israel for decades to use 26.3 percent of the U.S. aid on its own defense industry instead of on U.S. weapons.

The senators argued that Netanyahu had been forced into signing because Israel’s arch-enemy Iran is growing stronger as it obtains billions of dollars unfrozen under a nuclear agreement reached last year.

“Now is not the time to say that we’re going to nickel and dime Israel,” Graham said.