The first condition agreed to in the memorandum eliminates the long-standing practice of allowing Israel to use 25 percent of the aid for local purchases. The second is Israel’s commitment not to ask for any supplemental money from the Congress. Israel has further sent a letter committing to return any extra money if Congress were to allocate it.
It’s with this provision that Obama gets revenge on his three major opponents simultaneously without him nor his preferred successor paying any price.
By putting a provision in the agreement that Israel will not lobby Congress for additional funds and will return any it receives, Obama has undermined the very existence of the American Israeli Public Affair Committee. AIPAC made a fatal mistake when it decided to publicly fight the Iran accord.
If Israel cannot request and will in fact return any funds allocated to it by Congress, one of the key functions of AIPAC is eliminated. Furthermore, one of AIPAC's key achievements of the past few decades was Israel's ability to use part of the assistance to fund local purchases. This has been eliminated.
Lastly, Obama gets to reassert the primacy of the executive branch in the making of foreign policy. For decades, Congress has “interfered” in U.S. relations with Israel by allocating additional funds that various administrations have been reluctant to give. By forcing Israel to sign a letter stating that it will return any additional money, Obama has removed Congress’s ability to interfere in the process.
Finally, by getting Netanyahu to sign the agreement, Obama has given ammunition to some of Netanyahu’s biggest critics. Ehud Barak, the former prime minister and defense minister, has dominated the news cycle in Israel for the past two days after he published a scathing op-ed in The Washington Post in which he criticized Netanyhu for using the new agreement as a club against him.
Obama accomplished all this by wrapping the more problematic aspects of the agreement into a $38 billion package of assistance. Who can possibly criticize Obama for not being supportive of Israel after all he just allocated $38 billion for its defense?
So why did Netanyahu sign this agreement, instead of waiting for the next president? Until he writes his memoirs, we will never be sure. The best explanation is that he is petrified by what might happen if Donald Trump is elected.
While Trump is popular among many right-wing Israelis, Netanyahu has a much more sophisticated understanding of the world Israel lives in. A Trump victory would introduce a level of uncertainty into the world that Israel fears. Nobody has any idea what Trump might do as president and that is something new in international relations.
The same goes for foreign aid. As the biggest recipient of American foreign aid, not to mention diplomatic support, nothing makes the Israeli security establishment as nervous as Trump’s comments that America has to worry about America first.