President Obama has offered to increase U.S. military aid to Israel in the wake of the Iran nuclear agreement, according to a published report.
According to the New York Times, Obama broached the subject in a phone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday. White House officials said that Obama told Netanyahu that he was prepared to hold "intensive discussions" on bolstering Israel's defense capabilities.
The paper reported that Netanyahu denied to discuss the subject with the president, leading U.S. officials to believe he wants to wait and see what Congress has to say about the deal, which was agreed to after long talks involving the U.S., Iran, and five other world powers. Lawmakers have up to 60 days to review the agreement.
Netanyahu has been the staunchest critic of the agreement, calling it a "bad mistake of historic proportions" mere minutes after it was agreed to. He continued his criticism on Wednesday, saying there were "absurd things" in the agreement, and accusing world leaders of falling into "a trap of smiles set by the tyrannical Iranian regime."
In remarks to Israel's parliament, Netanyahu said he was not bound by the terms of the deal and could still take military action against Iran.
"We will reserve our right to defend ourselves against all of our enemies," said Netanyahu, who sees Iran's suspected pursuit of a nuclear weapon as a threat to Israel's existence.
The Times reports that under a memorandum of understanding that runs until 2018, the U.S. provides Israel with $3 billion per year in aid, most of which is used to buy military hardware, such as jets. An official familiar with ongoing negotiations told the paper that Israel has asked for between $4.2 and $4.5 billion per year for 10 years in a new aid agreement. According to The Times, negotiations on the agreement began long before the Iran talks ramped up.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is scheduled to visit Israel next week, while Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog has said that he will soon visit the U.S. to discuss "security measures to suit the new situation."
Any lobbying campaign in Congress by Israel would likely be futile, mainly because Obama doesn't need Congressional approval. Lawmakers will likely try to derail the agreement by passing new sanctions or preventing Obama from lifting existing sanctions — the key incentive for Iran to comply with the deal.
Obama has already threatened to veto any resolutions from Congress seeking to undermine the deal, meaning opponents would have to muster a two-thirds majority in Congress to override the veto.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.