Israeli and U.S. defense officials have agreed on which military systems and technologies Israel should receive from the United States in the wake of the big powers’ nuclear agreement with Iran, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Monday.
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But no agreement has been reached on the size of America’s annual military aid package to Israel.
Ya’alon, who recently returned from a meeting in Washington with U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, told reporters that the discussion “was the culmination of staff work that mapped the threats, the scenarios and the implications of the agreement with Iran.”
Israel expects the nuclear agreement to result in Iran increasing its financial support for terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, so Jerusalem wants to upgrade the Israel Defense Forces’ capabilities to help meet this challenge. Israel is also concerned about the progress of a deal under which Russia would sell Iran its S-300 anti-aircraft system; defense officials expect this deal to be concluded next year.
Ya’alon did not specify what Israel was seeking from the United States, but previous reports indicate that Israel wants more F-35 fighter jets, more F-15 fighters and the V-22 Osprey, a vertical take-off and landing plane. Washington agreed to sell Israel the V-22 in the past, but Israel decided to postpone the purchase.
Ya’alon said Israel sought to maintain its edge in the air, on the ground, at sea and in cyberspace, and the shopping list was being built accordingly.
But the acquisitions will ultimately depend on the size of the new military aid package that Washington and Jerusalem are negotiating.
Ya’alon did not specify the size of the package Israel is seeking, saying merely that “under the circumstances, we need more than there is now.” The U.S. administration is willing to increase the package by about $1 billion a year to $4.1 billion annually, a source close to the military aid process told Haaretz last month.
Ya’alon said the size of the package would not be finalized at Monday’s White House meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama, “but there will be understandings.”
Still, Ya’alon said an increase in U.S. military aid was insufficient; Israel must also increase the size of its defense budget. The defense and finance ministries are still negotiating over that issue.
Ya’alon seeks a defense budget of 63 billion shekels ($16 billion), not including special projects that the parties have agreed to exclude from the regular defense budget, like plans to relocate IDF bases from the center of the country to the Negev. But according to the official budget bill now before the Knesset, the defense budget would total only 56.1 billion shekels, a sum Ya’alon called “unacceptable” on Monday.
Ya’alon also said that in the two months since the current wave of Palestinian terror attacks began, only one assault was orchestrated by a terrorist organization.
That was the shooting that killed Eitam and Naama Henkin on October 1, which was perpetrated by a Hamas cell, he said.
Ya’alon dated the upsurge in terror to September 11, the Friday morning when a group of Muslim men barricaded themselves on the Temple Mount with pipe bombs and rocks, leading to clashes with the police. The IDF, however, believes the current terror wave really only began on October 1 with the Henkins’ murder.
“This isn’t organized activity, which is why the attacks are mainly knifings. The terrorist organizations’ inability to carry out serious attacks – shootings, including suicide attacks – is the result of our activity to thwart them,” Ya’alon said.
“We find ourselves facing a wave in which it’s hard to locate the individual who intends to perpetrate an attack, but even in this, we’re managing to arrest individuals before they act.”
Ya’alon described the current wave as “viral” violence and said the perpetrators had been influenced by Islamic State videos on the Internet.
He said the army was preparing to call up four battalions of reservists early next year to relieve the regular troops who have been sent to the West Bank to deal with the terror upsurge, so that the regular troops could spend time training.