Sources close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed Monday at the end of his meeting with US President Barack Obama that Israel has asked for military aid totaling $50 billion over ten years, starting in 2018. The new $5 billion per year figure includes not only the annual defense aid, but also the separate American investment in the development of missile interceptor systems like the Iron Dome and the Arrow.
The report that Israel would request $50 billion was first published last week by “Reuters”, without noting the specific components of the aid package. Israeli sources said that the figure was realistic, when considering the costs of developing the missile defense systems. According to the current agreement, through 2017, America provides Israeli military aid worth $3.1 billion annually. The funds for the missile interceptor systems – which is approved separately each year – has reached $750 million. Thus, Israel is asking for a de facto increase of more than $1 billion each year.
Obama and Netanyahu agreed to appoint teams to determine the size of the increase that Israel will receive starting 2018. The American team will arrive in Israel at the beginning of December. It will be headed by National Security Council Senior Director for the Levant, Israel, and Egypt Yael Lempert, who was the former deputy consul in Jerusalem and is fluent in Hebrew.
The Israeli team will arrive in Washington to continue the talks in 2016. The negotiations are expected to continue a number of months.
The sources said that Netanyahu did not focus on the numbers but emphasized the technological changes to the security sector which require significant investments in the development of new defensive measures and advanced weaponry.
“The Israeli needs have changed; there have been many chances since the last agreement between Israel and the US was signed in 2007. There is now advanced weapons systems capable of accurately hitting targets in the region. For Israel, that is a serious challenge.”
Netanyahu generally addressed the subject, noting that Obama shares Israel’s will to quickly complete the negotiations over the aid in a manner that takes into account Israeli needs.
“We greatly appreciate the American aid,” said Netanyahu, “But it is also a good investment for the US. If you look at the bigger picture, what would happen were it not for the American aid to Israel? The assistance goes both ways.”
The prime minister noted that he was aware of the US’ budget restrictions, but added: “If you look at the American aid to Israel and the mutual utility it produces, what Israel is asking for is not exceptional it is not such a large investment.”
He added that many countries receive military aid from the US, like South Korea, but the aid budgets for those nations are buried in the Pentagon budget and are thus difficult to quantify because it sometimes involves the deployment of American forces on their soil.
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