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Obama Opposes Congress' Proposal to Increase Aid to Israel

By Reuters &

The White House announced on Tuesday that it opposes the addition of $455 million to the budget to finance Israel's anti-missile defense, Yedioth Ahronoth reported. The announcement came following a decision by Congress to increase the aid to Israel, and in light of the disagreements between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government on the new defense aid agreement.

In a "Statement of Administration Policy" released by the White House's Office of Management and Budget and quoted by Jewish Insider, the administration said it "opposes the addition of $455 million above the FY 2017 Budget request for Israeli missile defense procurement and cooperative development programs."

Last month, the Senate Appropriations Committee recommended $600 million in funding for fiscal year 2017, an increase of $113 million from last year and $454 million over Obama's request, noted Jewish Insider.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) responded to the statement by saying it was "deeply disappointed" that the increased funding has been objected by the administration. "On a bipartisan basis, Congress has increased funding above administration requests this year, as it has done for well over a decade," AIPAC said, according to the Jewish Insider.

"These cooperative programs—including the Arrow, David's Sling, and Iron Dome—are critical for Israel's defense against a growing array of missile threats and make an important contribution to U.S. missile defense programs. We applaud Congress for consistently supporting these key programs, and urge their full funding in both the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization and Appropriations Acts."

The White House's announcement comes amid continued negotiations between the United States and Israel on the next aid package to Israel. The current defense agreement between Israel and the United States remains in force until 2018, and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been urged to accept President Barack Obama's 10-year military aid package which reportedly includes a total of $145.8 million for Israeli missile defense programs, a sharp drop in financial support.

A total of $3 billion in defense aid is given annually, but Netanyahu has asked for an increase to $5 billion annually, in light of the greater need for security due to the growing Iranian threat after the nuclear deal.

Last week, U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice promised Israel that the new military aid agreement between the two countries that is currently being negotiated will constitute "the single largest military assistance package — with any country — in American history."

She said the new decade-long aid package, which is expected to provide Israel somewhere between $37.5 billion and $40 billion over the life of the pact, will "constitute a significant increase in support," providing funding to update Israel's aircraft fleet and strengthen missile defenses.

Senior Hamas Commander 'Defects to Israel'


A senior commander in Hamas' elite commando unit has handed himself over to Israel, according to sources inside Gaza cited by Channel 2. Reports of his surrender to Israel have been circulating in Gaza ever since the commander - a member the elite "Nahba" unit of Hamas' military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades - went missing several days ago.

The Nahba spearheads Hamas' tunnel warfare capabilities, and is specifically tasked with capturing IDF soldiers. The missing commander is reportedly from Khan Younis in southern Gaza, and the son of a prominent judge on Hamas' Sharia religious court. According to Channel 2, a number of different "versions" of his disappearance are making the rounds in Gaza.

Hamas, for its part, maintains he was captured by Israeli security forces, who have nabbed a number of (generally more junior) Hamas operatives involved in tunnel digging over the past several months.

But other sources say he told his family he was going for a hike and would return by evening - only to cross over the border into Israel. Either way, capturing such a senior Hamas commander would represent a major intelligence coup for Israeli security services.

If confirmed, the unidentified commander would be the second senior Al Qassam Brigades terrorist captured by Israel in recent months, after Mohammed Atounah was captured as he allegedly crossed the border into Israel to carry out a terrorist attack. Atounah's capture provided Israel with a wealth of information about Hamas' tunnel network, preparations for future battle with Israel and overall military capabilities.

His capture, together with that of several other Qassam Brigades commanders and other Israeli intelligence measures, have enabled the IDF to locate and destroy two terror tunnels into Israel in May.

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