Netanyahu Defends U.S. Aid Deal: 'We Were Never Offered More Money'

Prime minister rejects criticism of agreement, says it constitutes 'ungratefulness' toward United States.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, September 18, 2016.
Dan Balilty, Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected criticism of the U.S. military aid agreement signed last week, saying on Sunday that it was constitutes "ungratefulness" toward Washington.

Netanyahu, speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting, said he was hearing what he said were "background noises and misinformation regarding the agreement."

Last week, former Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak launched an all-out assault on Netanyahu over the military aid agreement signed a day earlier. After publishing a scathing article in the Washington Post, in the evening Barak gave no less than seven interviews in three hours to the media in Israel, in which he argued that Netanyahu had signed a bad agreement that had done damage to Israel’s security.

"I wish to clarify: We were never offered more," Netanyahu said. "We weren't offered more money, not even one dollar more, and we weren’t offered special technologies. These are falsifications and fabrications by those with vested interests, they either aren’t familiar with the facts, or they are falsifying the facts, and they are of course also conveying ungratefulness, and that's the saddest part in my opinion, ungratefulness toward our biggest and best friend, the United States."

Netanyahu added: "this is an agreement that will greatly strengthen Israel's security, and it's only fitting that we welcome it and also express our gratitude to the United States."

On Saturday night, the prime minister's bureau issued a statement in the name of acting National Security Adviser Jacob Nagel, which said that “the claim that another $7 billion could have been received is completely divorced from reality.”

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

In the Washington Post article, Barak said Netanyahu had acted recklessly: "The damage produced by Netanyahu’s irresponsible management of the relations with the White House is now fully manifest. Israel will receive $3.8 billion a year – an important contribution to our security but far less than what could have been obtained before the prime minister chose to blatantly interfere with U.S. politics." 

Barak continued his bombardment of Netanyahu with interviews on the news programs of Israel’s three main television channels. Barak told Channel 2 that his criticism of Netanyahu over the military aid agreement and his claim that Israel could have received a grant of $4.5 billion a year “came from clear knowledge,” and not supposition. 

Barak said that beyond a better military aid deal, Netanyahu could have and should have achieved understandings with President Barack Obama regarding intelligence cooperation against Iran following the nuclear agreement as well as the actions that the United States and Israel would take if Iran broke the agreement.

"Everything was on the table and waiting, but Netanyahu chose to stomp into American politics and missed the opportunity,” Barak said.