Netanyahu Bureau Rejects Criticism of U.S. Aid Deal as 'Irresponsible Disinformation'

'The assessment that $7b could have been added to aid agreement utterly lacks a factual basis,' National Security Adviser Jacob Nagel says in response to criticism, first and foremost by former PM Ehud Barak.

Tom Shannon and Jacob Nagel participate in a signing ceremony for a new ten year pact on a defense aid agreement between the U.S. and Israel, Washington, U.S., September 14, 2016.
Gary Cameron, Reuters

The Israeli prime minister’s bureau issued an unusual statement Saturday night in the name of acting National Security Adviser Jacob Nagel, taking harshly to task the senior Israeli figures who criticized Israel’s military aid agreement with the United States, first and foremost former Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Barak stated in an opinion piece in the Washington Post on Wednesday and  in several subsequent interviews with Israeli media outlets that the agreement Netanyahu had reached was a bad one.

 “The claim that another $7 billion could have been received is completely divorced from reality,” Nagel said in reference to Barak’s main argument. “The American defense budget is under legal restrictions and is undergoing cuts. Even the proposal by forces in Congress, who wanted to see Israel receive as much aid as possible, was $3.4 billion in 2017 – in light of the restrictions on the American budget.

Ehud Barak speaking at the Herzlia Conference, June 16, 2016.
Ofer Vaknin

"Thus the assessment that $7 billion could have been added to the aid agreement utterly lacks a factual and professional basis.”

Nagel, who has been negotiating the aid package with the U.S. for the past three years, said that the agreement that was reached was unprecedented, and expressed disappointment over the criticism it drew.

“Since my return from the signing ceremony I have been exposed to great disinformation in the media by irresponsible critics, most of whom do not know the process of negotiations we conducted over the past three and a half years or the details of the agreement,” Nagel said. “Unfortunately a good deal of the criticism, by former and present senior officials, is completely divorced from the facts,” he added.

Nagel said the prime minister never promised the defense establishment that the aid agreement would stand at $4.5 billion a year. Nagel said proof of this is that the heads of Israel's security establishment based their multi-annual planning on an estimated aid amounting to $3.1 billion a year. “During two years of the current plan, the agreement will give them an additional $400 million," Nagel said.

The acting national security adviser said that the negotiations were followed closely by senior security officials and received their support and blessing all along the way. “Anonymous statements in the name of senior security establishment officials attacking the agreement are unworthy and unfounded,” he said.

Nagel also denied claims that the aid agreement had been influenced by Israel’s position on the nuclear agreement with Iran.

“In the framework of my role on the National Security Council I was put in charge of the negotiations by the prime minister, beginning with President Obama’s visit to Israel. A large part of the discussions were done before the issue of the agreement with Iran was even on the table,” Nagel said. “At no point in the negotiations did Israel receive from the officials conducting the negotiations a higher proposal than the one we signed on. The highest proposal we received was the one that appears in the agreement,” Nagel added.