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Congress & the Middle East: Letter Urging President Obama to Prioritize a new MOU With Israel

(November 10, 2015)

Sixteen U.S. Senate Democrats called on President Obama on November 10, 2015, to draft a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), strengthening security assistance and strategic ties to Israel. Included in this letter was a recommendation to provide Israel with the “necessary and appropriate measures to deter Iran,” as well as increased missile defense funding. This letter was sponsored by  Michael Bennet, Richard Blumenthal, and Ben Cardin, and was signed by Corey Booker, Robert P. Casey Jr., Chris Coons, Kristen Gillibrand, Tim Kaine, Edward Markey, Barbara Mikulski, Charles Schumer, John Tester, Mark Warner, Ron Wyden, Amy Klobuchar, and Bill Nelson. You can find the full text of this letter below.

November 9, 2015

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C.  20500

Dear Mr. President

During your upcoming meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, we urge you to prioritize  a new, robust Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)  to help Israel  prepare for, respond to, and defend against threats in an uncertain regional environment and to enhance its Qualitative Military Edge (QME). Assuring Israel’s QME lies at the heart of our bilateral security cooperation relationship. We support making the next MOU a truly transformational investment to deepen the U.S.-Israel strategic partnership based on a shared understanding of the threats Israel faces in the region.

Israel is a major strategic partner in an unpredictable region. Just last month, Iran conducted a ballistic missile test in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1929, calling into question the Iranian government’s willingness to abide by its international commitments.  Meanwhile, Hamas and Hezbollah are rebuilding their terrorist infrastructure in preparation for the next conflict with Israel. The Russian military has escalated its involvement in the Syrian civil war, worsening the conflict on Israel’s border and exacerbating the violent extremist threat that present serious security challenges to Israel.  The regional humanitarian crisis and refugee exodus is jeopardizing stability and security in the region, as are terrorist threats in the Sinai Peninsula.

In the face of this evolving and uncertain environment, U.S. support for and assistance to Israel is urgently required. In addition to concluding a new MOU for security assistance to Israel we encourage you to provide the necessary and appropriate measures to deter Iran, including applicable ordnance and delivery systems, and to enhance Israel’s QME over countries in the region.  These measures are necessary to deter conventional and asymmetric threats to Israel.  We also support providing missile defense funding, as necessary and appropriate, to accelerate the co-development of missile defense systems, and increased bilateral cooperation on cyber, intelligence, and research and development for tunnel detection and mapping technologies.

We commend your commitment to an unprecedented level of military, intelligence, and security cooperation with Israel to address new and complex security threats. We applaud your steadfast implementation of the current MOU, which provides $30 billion in assistance to Israel through Fiscal Year 2018. As threats in the region continue to evolve, we urge you to engage at the highest levels to continue a process to develop a shared understanding of the threat environment confronting Israel, and to take bold steps to strengthen the MOU that serves as the foundation of our bilateral security efforts.

The United States and Israel have an unparalleled history of friendship and cooperation. We look forward to the successful conclusion of a new MOU with Israel as a lasting legacy of your presidency.