Democratic senators call on Obama to strengthen security memo with Israel


(JTA) — Democratic senators in a letter called on President Barack Obama to write a new and strengthened “Memorandum of Understanding” on security assistance to Israel.

The 16 senators, led by Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Richard Blumenthal, D–Conn., and Ben Cardin, D-Md., — the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent the letter to the president on Monday, the day Obama met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The letter called on Obama to conclude the new memorandum as well as to “provide the necessary and appropriate measures to deter Iran,” such as ordinance and delivery systems, as well as to enhance Israel’s qualitative military edge 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,” the letter said.

The senators commended Obama’s “commitment to an unprecedented level of military, intelligence and security cooperation with Israel to address new and complex security threats.”

The current “Memorandum of Understanding” (MOU) provides $30 billion in U.S. assistance to Israel through 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 threatening environment confronting Israel, and to take bold steps to strengthen the MOU that serves as the foundation of our bilateral security efforts,” the senators wrote. They told Obama that a new MOU with Israel would serve as a “lasting legacy of your presidency.”

The letter also was signed by Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both D-N.Y.; Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, both D-Va.; Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Robert Casey Jr., D-Pa.; Chris Coons, D-Del.; Edward Markey, D-Mass.; Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.; Jon Tester, D-Mont.; Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

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