Israel to ask U.S. for more military aid
Israel will ask the U.S. government to significantly increase its military assistance to the country as part of a new multi-year aid agreement.
A high-level Israeli economic delegation led by Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer and Finance Ministry Director General Yarom Ariav will meet with an American team in Washington this week.
The present package, which ends this year, covers $2.4 billion in annual military aid.
Israel's request comes due to the military challenges and restraints it will have to face in the upcoming years and the weakening dollar.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, delegation members and others met at the Prime Minister's Office yesterday to discuss the requests Israel would present.
The level of aid to be requested was to be set at the meeting, but Washington asked Israel last week not to ask for a specific amount at this stage, but rather present its needs in principle.
The actual numbers will be raised in negotiations in the upcoming months.
Israel is requesting only military aid, since it knows that a request for civilian assistance would not be met favorably in Washington.
The talks over increasing military aid have been going on for half a year at various levels and in several frameworks: U.S. President George Bush and Olmert discussed the matter face-to-face last year, while the former treasury director general, Joseph Bachar, held a special meeting on the matter with senior administration officials in Washington in August.
The Americans have yet to provide a response to Israel, but the fact that the talks are continuing - and this time at a very senior level - has encouraged Jerusalem's higher echelons to believe that at least most of the request will be approved.
The present aid agreement was signed to cover 1998-2007. Annual aid granted to Israel in 1998 was $3 billion - $1.8 million in military aid and $1.2 million civilian aid.
Each year throughout the present agreement civilian aid was reduced by $120 million, while military aid grew $60 million.
As of next year, annual U.S. aid will total $2.4 billion - all military - unless a new agreement is reached.
In addition to Fischer and Ariav, the delegation will include Foreign Ministry Director General Aharon Abramovitch, the head of the National Security Council, Ilan Mizrahi, and Israel Defense Forces representatives, and the embassy in Washington.