Lieberman to Visit Washington as Israel-U.S. Aid Talks Bog Down

Lieberman makes his first trip to Washington as defense minister as Israel seeks to close differences over a 10-year aid package before Obama leaves office.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman visits site of a Tel Aviv gun assault earlier this month.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman visits site of a Tel Aviv gun assault earlier this month.Credit: Gil Cohen-Magen, AFP
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman will fly on Saturday night to Washington for expected talks with his U.S. counterpart, Ashton Carter.

While in the U.S. Lieberman is expected to visit Texas to unveil an Israeli F35 fighter plane at Lockheed Martin.

Lieberman's first U.S. trip since taking office last month comes as Israel was seeking to narrow differences with the Obama Administration over the sum of a prospective new 10-year military aid package.

A senior ministry official said a deal ought to be concluded "in the shortest time possible," and that "there is no room to drag it out," referring to the negotiations.

Acting National Security Adviser Brig. Gen. Yaakov Nagel suggested in remarks to reporters earlier on Wednesday that gaps were still wide on the terms for an agreement about the aid deal, with Washington offering less than Israel wants.

Nagel told political reporters that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was interested in signing off on the deal before President Barak Obama leaves office, but that he wasn't ready to do so at any price.

"Very simply, we want to achieve an agreement with the Obama Administration but not at any price," Nagel said. "Draw you own conclusions about what that means."

He said there were still differences of opinion as to how much aid would be forthcoming. Israel is asking for 40 to 50 billion dollars over 10 years and the U.S. is offering $34-37 billion for that period.

Nagel said there were also still differences over the portion of the package Isasel could use to purchase its own locally produced military equipment. Currently it may use 26.3 percent of annual U.S. aid for local purchases. The Americans want to reduce this sum gradually with the aim of bringing it down to zero in the coming years.

"We have our position and they have theirs," Nagel said. "We hope to achieve an agreement and perhaps some people would be surprised. We are negotiating for the best deal possible deal and moving toward a wrapup of the talks. When we reach the conclusion that we have reached the last possible offer, we will make a decision. In any case, we are at a stage in which we are toward the end of the process."

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