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Hefty Israeli Military Aid Avoids Chopping Block in Trump's 2020 Budget Proposal

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US President Donald Trump's spending budget proposal for fiscal year 2020 contains cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, but not to the $3.3 billion portioned off for Israeli military aid that was promised to Tel Aviv during the Obama years.

Budget documents obtained by Israeli outlet Globes show that the budget proposal "includes $3.3 billion in Foreign Military Financing grant assistance to bolster Israel's capacity to defend itself against threats in the region and maintain its qualitative military edge." The proposal was delivered to Congress on Monday.

The large sum of military aid is the result of the 10-year, $38 billion Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by then-US President Barack Obama to help bolster Israeli forces and strengthen US-Israeli ties. The 2016 agreement went into effect on October 1, 2018.

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"Under the terms of the MOU, the United States will set funding for Israel at levels of $3.3 billion in Foreign Military Financing and $500 million for cooperative programs for missile defense over each of the next ten years," a release from the US Department of State explains.

"Our implementation of this historic MOU reflects the enduring and unshakable commitment of the President, this Administration, and the American people to Israel's security."

Journalist Dan Lazare told Sputnik on Wednesday that the US' monetary aid to the Israeli state isn't something that began in the last few years. In fact, Washington has been forking over the benjamins for several decades.

"The US has been providing Israel with military funding since the early 1960s, covertly at first, but then on a wide-open basis following the Six-Day War in June 1967," Lazare said. "The goal was to combat Soviet influence and enable Israel to maintain its ‘qualitative military edge' over its Arab rivals, most of whom were deemed to be pro-Soviet. But rather than tapering off with the fall of the USSR and the waning of the so-called Communist threat, US arms sales soared."

To Lazare, while the 2016 MOU is "America's bit to keep the game going," it's also "a sop to the Israeli military" and to the US military industrial complex, as it requires Israel "to spend the full sum on US-made arms."

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"US corporations are arguably the main beneficiaries. But Israeli arms makers will also do well despite losing a direct US subsidy, since they'll no doubt benefit from the technological spillover," he said.

With the deal only going into effect last year, Lazare also told Sputnik that it's still unclear how the US government may proceed once it expires in 2028. "But one thing that's clear is that the Middle East is more explosive rather than less, thanks to Israel's drift to the right, the rise of an erratic one-man dictatorship in Saudi Arabia and Trump's decision to pull out of the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or the Iran nuclear deal] with Iran," the journalist said.

"The MOU is thus another ingredient in the growing destabilization of the Middle East."

Trump's proposed $4.7 trillion fiscal year 2020 budget, which also includes cuts to Social Security, student lending and nutritional assistance for low-income families, among other programs, hasn't been warmly accepted by many US lawmakers since its Monday release.

US Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY), the chair of the House Budget Committee, said this week that the proposal isn't "a tightening of the belt or a trimming of the fat, or even a serious attempt at reining in spending."

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He added that the proposed cuts to social programs "are extreme to a level that is malicious — a level that is intended to do harm."

While outlining cuts to assistance programs, the budget also opts to increase Washington's defense spending, and it further requests $8.6 billion to build Trump's long-desired wall along the US-Mexico border.

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