President Obama and his defenders are trumpeting the new aid agreement with Israel as proof that he is the best friend Israel ever had in the White House. In fact, it’s a bad deal and should be treated the same way Obama treated prior agreements he didn't like: It should be forgotten by the next president. The White House may be saying this is the greatest deal ever, but in Israel many observers are saying that Obama did no favors for the Jewish state. That's the conclusion Israeli journalists have all reached. They're right.

The current aid agreement is for $3.1 billion a year. The new one is for $3.8 billion, but the increase is almost entirely illusory. Congress already appropriates hundreds of millions of dollars beyond the base $3.1 billion level for Israel's missile defense, so the current aid level is actually about $3.5 billion. That means the total increase is roughly $300 million a year. But given inflation in the costs of military items, and the greater threat to Israel due to Obama's Iran nuclear deal, the net result is at best continuation of the current aid agreement.

But Obama imposed two additional conditions that had never existed before and are absent in the aid agreement George W. Bush made with Israel in 2007. First, Israel must spend every dime in the United States after a phase-in period, meaning it cannot use the funds to purchase any military equipment made in Israel. Second, Israel has agreed that it will not go to Congress to seek additional funding under any circumstances.

The latter condition is a big deal and is why Sen. Lindsey Graham is so opposed to what Obama has wrought. It's "not binding on the Congress," he said this week. "I'm offended that the administration would try to take over the appropriations process. If they don't like what I'm doing, they can veto the bill. We can't have the executive branch dictating what the legislative branch will do for a decade based on an agreement we are not a party to." And Speaker Paul Ryan's spokeswoman said, "We will continue to appropriate the funds that we determine are necessary to meet the needs of our shared security interests in the Middle East."

There is another condition in this agreement that is more absurd, and belies Obama's claims of deepest friendship for the Jewish state. As the price for concluding the deal, Obama forced Israel to agree that if Congress appropriates additional funds in 2017 or 2018, Israel will not accept the aid and will return the money. This is a first in American history and constitutes a deliberate undermining of the constitutional power of Congress to determine foreign aid levels.

The agreement has been signed, and presumably Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu concluded he was better taking this from Obama now than seeing a long period of uncertainty as a new administration got to work next year. But what is this "agreement"? It isn't a treaty, and Congress had no role in it whatsoever. As Ryan's aide said, nothing stops Congress from appropriating what it thinks proper in future years—with Obama's conditions or without them.

What to do? Obama has shown us the way forward. On April 14, 2004, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and President George W. Bush exchanged letters in which each made pledges to the other. It was a bargained-for exchange where the United States provided support for Sharon's decision to get out of Gaza. As part of that exchange, Israel and the United States reached an agreement on the hot topic of settlement expansion. Sharon agreed he would create no new settlements and provide Israelis with no financial inducements to move to a settlement. New construction in settlements would be within already-built-up areas and settlements would expand in population but not in land area. Sharon referred publicly to these commitments over and over again: They were clear. And the American commitments were equally clear: On Aug. 21, 2004, the New York Times reported that "the Bush administration .  .  . now supports construction of new apartments in areas already built up in some settlements, as long as the expansion does not extend outward."


Bush and Sharon in 2004: The Obama Administration treated their deal on settlements as non-binding on their successors and "That's precisely the way future administrations should treat this Obama-Netanyahu deal"  Abrams argues.

And after Bush and Sharon exchanged these commitments, Congress weighed in: In June 2004 the House voted 407 to 9 to approve House Concurrent Resolution 460, which said that Congress "strongly endorses the principles articulated by President Bush in his letter dated April 14, 2004, to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon."

The Obama administration simply ignored the letters. They were treated as at best a private, personal exchange between two men. Bush was after all gone, and so was Sharon, and of course the conditions were not binding in the sense that a treaty is. That's precisely the way future administrations should treat this Obama-Netanyahu deal: binding on the two men, perhaps, but not on the two countries.

Consider the alternative: A senator or congressman visits Israel in 2017 or 2020 and says to its minister of defense or IDF chief of staff, "Do you have the funding you need for program X, given the changes in Syria and the way Hezbollah is building up and how Iran is acting?" And the Israelis are supposed to reply, "I can't talk to you about that; I'm not allowed to speak to Congress about anything related to funds." It's absurd and constitutes an unacceptable interference with the ability of Congress to do its critical appropriations work.

So despite the way the White House is applauding itself, this deal is no cause for celebration. It should be seen as the best Obama could bring himself to do, but not as an agreement binding for a decade on Israel, the United States—and above all on Congress, whose only role was to read about it in the newspapers. The effort to prevent communications between Israel and Congress on funding matters should be understood as just another Obama usurpation of congressional prerogatives and disregarded after January 20, 2017.