by Ari Yashar
Overwhelming 4/5 majority of senate sends joint letter to Obama, urging defense package be settled soon and raised from $3 billion a year.
By a huge four-fifths majority, the US Senate signed on to a joint letter pressing US President Barack Obama to hurry and settle a new defense aid package to Israel, encouraging him to raise it from $3 billion a year.
A new agreement on the defense package has been stalled, as Israel is requesting the aid be raised particularly in light of the controversial Iranian nuclear deal last July and increased regional threats - Obama for his part has refused to increase the aid.
A full 83 of the 100 total senators had their signatures on the letter, reports Reuters on Monday, with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) leading the effort.
Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) was one of the 51 Republicans supporting the move, although Democratic candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) did not sign the letter. A total of 32 Democrats added their signatures.
"In light of Israel's dramatically rising defense challenges, we stand ready to support a substantially enhanced new long-term agreement to help provide Israel the resources it requires to defend itself and preserve its qualitative military edge," read the letter.
Israel has been asking for an increase of the annual defense budget to $4-$4.5 billion when the current agreement expires in 2018, and while the letter did not specify how much the US should give, it called for a significant increase.
In the letter, the senators also said they want to increase US funding for cooperative missile defense programs with Israel, such as Iron Dome and David's Sling.
Obama has asked to allocate $150 million for the joint missile programs, but senators are looking to send hundreds of millions according to the letter.
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