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U.S. Delegation to Arrive in Israel Next Week to Finalize Details of New Military Aid Package

Israel to start receiving 10-year package in 2018, when the present arrangement runs out.

U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice, left, with Israel Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon in Washington, in December 2015.
Ariel Hermoni / Israel Defense Ministry

A delegation from the United States will arrive in Israel next week to finalize the details of the U.S. military aid agreement with Israel for the next 10 years. The payout from the new aid package will start with the 2019 U.S. government fiscal year, beginning in October 2018.

Composed of staff from the U.S. National Security Council, the delegation is scheduled to meet with their Israeli counterparts, headed by Brig. Gen. (res.) Jacob Nagal, acting head of Israel’s National Security Council. Nagal has temporarily replaced Yossi Cohen, who recently was tapped to direct the Mossad espionage agency. Senior officers from the Israel Defense Forces General Staff's Planning Directorate, as well as Defense Ministry officials will participate in the meetings too.

The upcoming round of discussions is expected to focus on technical details, says a source involved in the talks, and to be one of the last before finalization of the new aid agreement.

Within the next month and a half, the two countries hope to draft a memorandum of understanding covering American funding to Israel's military over the next decade, the source added.

During recent visits to Washington, both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon have discussed with American officials the amount of military aid Israel will receive starting in 2018, when the present aid arrangement runs out.

The Obama administration is expected to raise America's annual military funding to Israel by up to $1 billion for the period covered in the new accord – to about $4.1 billion annually, Haaretz reported three months ago.

Israeli defense officials have said in the past increased U.S. military aid must be concomitant with an increase in Israeli defense spending. As part of the recent negotiations between Israel's finance and defense ministries, a hike in the defense budget was approved, bringing it to a total of more than 60 billion shekels (about $15 billion) per year. In addition, the ministries agreed that from now on, U.S. military aid will be considered to be separate from the regular defense budget, and accounted for separately as well, and to that end, there will be an exemption on levying value added tax on the use of these monies.

After the Iran deal

U.S. military aid to Israel began in 1962; the cumulative sum allocated since then is about $100 billion. The agreement allows Israel to purchase weapons as well as other related equipment and supplies, such as fuel, from the United States. Among the items included are F-35 airplanes. A significant increase in American aid would allow Israel also to purchase Bell Boeing's V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, a deal agreed to last year but postponed due to a shortage of funds. The V-22 deal is estimated at a cost of $1.3 billion.

Up until a few months ago, Israel refused to hold talks on the military aid framework and the “compensation package” it will receive because of the Iranian nuclear agreement, until the latter was formally approved. A senior Israeli defense official said that because the Iranian accord with the world powers will involve the arming of various Arab countries, particularly the Gulf states, “an answer for preserving [Israel’s] qualitative military edge is required — and everyone is aware of this.”

The Israeli decision to wait on the aid talks until approval of the deal with Tehran was not well received in the Obama administration, which saw the postponement as a waste of time.

At this week's cabinet meeting, Netanyahu mentioned the issue of U.S. military aid, after the removal of sanctions against Iran came into effect.

“Following the nuclear agreement with Iran, Israel will continue to monitor all of Iran’s international violations, including those regarding the nuclear agreement, the ballistic missile accord and terrorism,” Netanyahu declared.

“Discussions with the administration are currently being completed," the premier added, "on a document of understanding for the coming decade regarding security assistance to the State of Israel. This is an important part of the permanent policy with respect to us and the United States, our ally, and it is important in order to allow Israel to repel threats in the region – especially the Iranian threat."