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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

Record US aid package for Israel comes into effect

State Department says deal demonstrates unshakeable commitment to Israel

US President Donald Trump with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, September 2018. Nicholas Kamm / AFP
US President Donald Trump with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, September 2018. Nicholas Kamm / AFP

A landmark ten-year aid package from the United States to Israel signed in 2016 came into effect on Monday, the State Department confirmed.

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the deal agreed under the Obama administration demonstrated Washington’s unshakeable commitment to Israel.

“Israel is a valuable and capable ally to the United States that today faces dangerously escalating regional threats, first and foremost from the Iranian regime's sponsorship of terrorist groups seeking to attack not only Israel but also American interests,” she said in a statement.

She also appeared to point to the regional threat from Iran, which regularly threatens Israel’s destruction, as a justification for the record $38 billion deal.

“Israel is also threatened by the reckless proliferation of destabilising weapons systems into the region that increase the possibility of an escalated conflict in an already dangerous and volatile theater,” Ms Nauert continued.

“The United States unconditionally affirms Israel's right to self-defense, and this MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) is a concrete demonstration of our commitment to Israel's capacity to defend itself with a qualitative military edge over all potential regional adversaries.”

Its introduction comes at a time when US President Donald Trump is making a series of policy moves in favour of its historic ally that have angered the Palestinians and threatened their dreams of a sovereign state.

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In December, he announced the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move widely opposed across the Arab world as the contested city hosts some of the holiest sites in Islam.

He has also cut all American funding for the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, leaving it to face its worst crisis since it was founding after the creation of Israel in 1947, and slashed US aid for East Jerusalem hospitals that serve Palestinians in need.

In the signing of the deal in 2016, Barack Obama said he would “continue to press for a two-state solution” to the decades-long conflict, something the Palestinians believe Mr Trump to be working against. But last week at the UN General Assembly, he said “I like the two-state solution”.

He has regularly said he would be happy with any outcome both parties want. But Israeli officials are largely opposed to the idea of a sovereign Palestinian state as it would force them to cancel their settlement enterprise in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which they occupy and where more than 400,000 settlers live in illegal outposts.