Will the US demand that Israel return tens of millions of dollars in aid provided by Congress in defiance of Obama’s policy last year?
Among former US President Barack Obama’s foreign policy goals was limiting the amount of aid the US provided to Israel, a goal that he accomplished via a heavily controversial Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Jewish state that barred Israel from requesting additional financial aid from Congress. While Congressmen such as Lindsey Graham fought to stop the MOU when it was first advanced, Obama eventually succeeded in pushing it through.
Notwithstanding the terms of the MOU, Congress last year defied Obama’s efforts and allocated to Israel an additional $75 million in U.S. It appears now that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and a cadre of career State Department employees are aggressively pursuing a plan to force Israel to return $75 million in aid, according to a recent report by the Washington Free Beacon.
Among the opponents of this effort are key members of Congress, who question the constitutionality of Obama’s MOU, which they contend encroaches on Congress’ constitutional right to apportion US aid dollars to allies. According to the Washington Free Beacon, quoting a senior Congressional aide, Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) “strongly warned the State Department” last week “that such action would be unwise and invite unwanted conflict with Israel.”
With the State Department brandishing Obama’s MOU on one side and Congress defending constitutional separation of powers on the other, a clash seems imminent between the executive and legislative branches of the government. Insiders who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon explained, “The State Department-led effort is an attempt to undermine Congress and derail the White House’s strong working relationship with Israel.”
Previous reports by the Washington Free Beacon also described the situation as “open war” between the State Department and the Trump administration, “on a range of key issues, including the U.S.-Israel relationship, the Iran portfolio, and other matters.”