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Monday, February 08, 2016

Obama's got Israel's back - again

Remember President Hussein Obama promising Israel additional military aid to ensure that we can cope with a nuclear Iran? In Haaretz on Sunday, Barak Ravid reported that Prime Minister Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday that if the Obama administration doesn't properly help Israel, he'll wait for the next administration.
"It's not yet clear that we will come to an agreement," Netanyahu told the cabinet members in the course of a diplomatic-security briefing by acting national security adviser Jacob Nagel, who also heads the Israeli team negotiating memorandum with the Americans. "[We] need to see if [we] can achieve a result that will address Israel's security needs or perhaps we will not manage to come to an agreement with this administration and will need to come to an agreement with the next administration."

Last Thursday, an American delegation led by Yael Lempert, the Special Assistant to the president and Senior Director for the Levant, Israel and Egypt at the National Security Council in the White House, who arrived in Israel to hold a third round of negotiations on the matter. Over the past three days, the American team held discussions with a team of counterparts from the national security staff in the Prime Minister's Office and from the Defense Ministry, the Israel Defense Forces and the Foreign Ministry. The main topic of discussion in the talks was the size of the aid that the United States would provide Israel and the conditions on its use.

Netanyahu's remarks at the cabinet meeting raise the possibility that the round of talks in Jerusalem will not achieve substantial progress. Just two weeks ago, in the course of his visit to the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where the prime minister met with American Vice President Joe Biden, and where the two discussed the matter, the prime minister sounded much more optimistic.  In an interview on stage with American journalist Fareed Zakaria, Netanyahu noted that he believed Israel and the United States would manage to wrap up negotiations in a positive manner on a new security memorandum of understanding in the coming months that would outline the size of American assistance to the IDF for the coming decade. 

The current security memorandum of understanding signed ten years ago between the two countries is due to expire at the end of 2018. As a result of the understanding, the United States has provided $30 billion over a decade in security assistance to Israel. In the course of meetings between Netanyahu and Obama at the White House in November, the two announced the opening of new negotiations on the memorandum for the coming decade.

At the beginning of the negotiations a few months ago, senior figures in the defense establishment expressed the position that Israel is in need of a $5 billion annual increase to the amount of American assistance. Netanyahu himself has told the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee of the Knesset that he is interested in coming to agreement with Obama on the sum of "$4 billion plus."

In the course of his last visit to the United States and in interviews with the American media since then, Netanyahu has stressed that Israel needs a substantial increase in American security assistance in light of the nuclear agreement that Iran reached with the major world powers. Iran will be receiving $100 billion as a result of the lifting of sanctions and can use these funds to acquire quantities of weapons and provide advanced weaponry to Israel's enemies – Hezbollah, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Netanyahu noted.

At the same time, Netanyahu has made it clear in recent months both in public and in private conversations with the Americans that the Sunni Arab countries are acquiring large quantities of advanced weaponry from the United States and France to protect themselves from Iran, but the weapons could in the future be turned against Israel. In such a reality, he has argued, an increase in American assistance is necessary to maintain the IDF's qualitative advantage in the region.

Senior officials in the defense establishment are expressing serious concern over the prospect that it will not be possible to reach an agreement with the Obama administration on the size of security assistance, resulting in a deferral of the subject until a new president takes office in January 2017. Under such circumstances, there would be less than a year remaining to come to a new security agreement before the current one expires. That would present a very complicated situation since any new president would need half a year at least to study the subject.
DEBKA, which I don't like to sole source, but will because of the Haaretz background, reports on some of the specifics of what's missing.
US President Barack Obama has retracted on his pledge of an extra defense package to compensate Israel for the damage caused its security by the nuclear deal concluded with Iran last year. This flat refusal, reported here by debkafile’s Washington sources, confronted Israeli officials when they met last week with heads of the National Security Council at the White House. 

Asked to define its new requirements, Israel asked the administration for an additional $1.9 billion, which would have upped the total to $5 billion per annum for the next five years. The officials explained that Israel’s defense bill had been inflated substantially by the new perils looming from the current Middle East wars, and the windfall Iran had gained from the lifting of sanctions for its advanced ballistic missiles programs and for enhancing its allies' aggressive capacity, especially that of Hizballah.
Israel is now beset additionally by adverse Russian military operations in southern Syria and looming ISIS threats on multiple fronts, at a time that the Arab states are stuffing their armories with advanced weapons from Russia and China.
The US officials explained that, because of cutbacks in US defense spending, it would not be possible to add a single dollar to Israel’s regular $3.1 billion appropriation. After notifying Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon of this refusal, the Israeli delegation was advised to reduce its application to $900 million. This too was refused.
The standing $3.1 billion annual US assistance program for Israel expires at the end of 2016. The negotiations taking place currently were to have covered its extension for ten years. That too is in doubt.
The Obama administration reacted angrily to Prime Minister Netanyahu's statement, and said that Israel will not get a better deal from the next President. Of course, that depends who the next President is.


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At 5:16 PM, Blogger Empress Trudy said...

Israel must disentangle itself from the F-35 program. It must look to China and Japan for generation military aircraft. It's obvious that Obama wants Israel to wither and die otherwise there would no 'negotiation' over strategic defense. Either you do it or you don't. There's no grey area. By the way I see South Korea wants THAAD to deploy against 'only' (their words, not mine) the DPRK. Since THAAD was developed in conjunction with Israel, Israel should put up their own competing version of it for the RoK. The IAF is already buying South Korea's T/A-50 advanced supersonic training jet so it's a good fit.

At 7:02 AM, Blogger Rob said...

I agree with the Empress Trudy about the glitch prone F-35, but I'd sooner see Israel use the $$ saved to make its own planes.

I also wouldn't count on more US $$ in time to deal with the next strategic challenges. Barack Hussein Obama, after all, will be in charge for almost another full year, until 1/22/17. Bibi was foolish to believe Obama and Kerry's guarantees in the first place.

And after seeing how Bibi has been coping with the 'Palestinian' low level war of attrition, Israel likely needs new leadership too.


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