Senator Lindsey Graham’s advice to Netanyahu: “Tell the White House to “go f*** themselves”
“The Israeli prime minister told me the administration is refusing to sign the MOU until I agree to change my appropriation markup back to $3.1 billion,” Graham said. “I said, ‘Tell the administration to go F*** themselves.'”
JERUSALEM POST – Senator Lindsey Graham is holding up the conclusion of a critical, decade-long defense deal between the US and Israel with legislation that would increase US aid to the Jewish state next year by over $300 million what the White House has agreed to.
Graham’s effort is an intentional finger in the eye to the Obama administration, which has spent over a year negotiating a complex memorandum of understanding with Israel that will ultimately increase US defense aid to the state from $3.1 billion to $3.3 billion a year in 2018.
Congress has played no role in the effort– and Graham (R-South Carolina) sees no reason why the legislature should simply abide by what the administration has negotiated without its consent.
“I’m offended that the administration would try to take over the appropriations process,” Graham, who chairs the Senate subcommittee on the foreign affairs budget, told The Washington Post over the weekend. “We can’t have the executive branch dictating what the legislative branch will do for a decade based on an agreement we are not a party to.”
Graham’s spokesman, Kevin Bishop, noted to The Jerusalem Post on Sunday night that his markup passed through committee back in June.
“The negotiations were between the Obama administration and the Israeli government. Senator Graham was not part of the negotiations,” Bishop said, stating that his boss sees no need to be bound by the administration’s position
Graham said he has received no direct complaints from the White House, but that he did recently receive a call from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said he is prepared to sign the agreement.
“The Israeli prime minister told me the administration is refusing to sign the MOU until I agree to change my appropriation markup back to $3.1 billion,” Graham said. “I said, ‘Tell the administration to go F themselves.'”
Graham challenged Netanyahu to say that Israel does not need the additional money appropriated in his markup bill. Netanyahu allegedly declined to do so.
Officials familiar with Graham’s markup tell the Post that the American Public Affairs Committee– typically with its hands in all Israel-related legislation– has taken no part in this effort.
And asked for comment on Graham’s stand, one White House official told the Post the administration is “prepared to sign” the agreement– on its own terms.
The negotiated MOU, the official said, “would include both foreign military financing (FMF) funds and an unprecedented multi-year commitment of missile defense funding, and would constitute the largest single pledge of military assistance to any country in US history.”
“We also remain committed to upholding the funding levels agreed by the United States and Israel in the current MOU, including $3.1 billion in FMF funds in Fiscal Year 2017,” the official added.
Graham’s proposal would increase that $3.1 billion to $3.4 billion.
It was not immediately clear if Graham had recruited allies to his cause, but one unlikely dissenter may be House Speaker Paul Ryan. Speaking with the Post in April, Ryan said of the MOU talks: “I don’t know what the numbers are going to be– that’s between the administration and the Israeli government.”
“We have budget constraints like anybody else does,” he added.
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