Israel PM Netanyahu thanks US for record aid deal

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanks US President Barack Obama and the US Congress for the 'historic' military aid package.

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday (Sept 14) thanked the United States' President and Congress for what he called an "historic" military aid package.

In a televised statement from his office in Jerusalem, Mr Netanyahu said he is grateful to the Obama administration for supporting Israel's security needs. Mr Netanyahu recorded the message an hour before the aid deal was signed in Washington, DC.

"I would like to thank President Obama and his administration for this historic deal. I also thank our many, many friends in the American Congress and the American people for their support, bi-partisan support from the United States,'' Mr Netanyahu said.

"This deal illustrates a simple truth: the relationship between Israel and the United States is solid and powerful, it does not mean that we don't have disputes now and then, but these are disputes you have between family, it does not affect whatsoever the great friendship between Israel and the United States, a friendship that this aid deal represents, that will strengthen Israel's military force in the next decade," he added.

According to the deal, the United States will give Israel US$38 billion (S$52 billion)  in military aid over a decade, the largest such aid package in US history.

The agreement was signed at the State Department by US Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon and by Mr Jacob Nagel, acting head of Mr Netanyahu's national security council.

The deal, whose details have been reported by Reuters, will allow Israel to upgrade most of its fighter aircraft, improve its ground forces' mobility and strengthen its missile defense systems, a top US official said.

While the package constitutes the most US military aid ever given to one country, it entails concessions by Mr Netanyahu, according to officials on both sides.

Those include Israel's promise not to seek additional funds from Congress beyond what will be guaranteed annually in the new package, and to phase out a special arrangement that has allowed Israel to spend part of its US aid on its own defense industry instead of on American-made weapons, the officials said.

The USD38 billion memorandum of understanding (MOU) covers US fiscal years 2019-2028 and succeeds the current US$30 billion MOU signed in 2007, which expires at the end of fiscal 2018.