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Netanyahu Likely to Conclude Military Aid Talks with Obama Administration

That Israel would negotiate a new military aid bill to succeed the $3 billion annual allocation it now receives was never in question. But whether it would be negotiated with the Obama administration or wait for either a President Trump or Clinton was either a matter of positioning or a toss of the dice. Despite the seven years of friction between Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama, talks began toward a renewed, 10-year aid package that based on reports from Washington and Jerusalem falls short of the almost $4 billion Netanyahu ideally wants. But with the negotiations pretty well finished and the end of the Obama presidency at hand, Netanyahu has so far not accepted the offer on the table and has continued to hint that he still might wait for the next administration to cut a better deal. So it was significant that addressing the parliament on Monday, Netanyahu said he hopes to finalize the agreement with the Obama administration “within a few weeks.” His statement contradicted those of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman who told a parliamentary committee last week that talks will probably wind up around October. While the Americans have said that the talking is done and the ball is in Netanyahu’s court, Israel still wants to be able to spend more of the aid with Israeli companies than the present deal allows. [Note: The aid agreement requires that most of the American funding be spent in the United States.] One of the factors driving Netanyahu’s willingness to negotiate with the Obama administration is the realization that the mood of Congress and the American people has changed and that even lawmakers who enjoy positive relations with the Jewish state believe the amount provided – more than any other aid recipient receives – is excessive or alternatively, should be provided to American forces given budgetary considerations. The current arrangement provides Israel with $3 billion each year of which $800,000 can be spent on purchases from Israeli defense contractors.