U.S., Israeli Officials Meet on Renewing Foreign Aid Package

Meeting is first in a series to determine nature of American foreign aid to Israel over the next 10 years.

American and Israeli delegations held their first meeting Thursday to discuss the renewal of the United States' foreign aid package for Israel.

"These talks reflect the deep historical and security ties between the United States and Israel, based on our shared values and common interests," the Israeli delegation said in a statement.

"The meeting today is another manifestation of the unshakable commitment by the United States to Israel's security and a step towards fortifying and enhancing the strategic relationship between our two countries," continued the statement.

The Israeli delegation is headed by Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fisher and Finance Minister Director General Yoram Ariav, while the American delegation is headed by Under Secretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns.

The talks, according to the Israeli delegation, will "define the strategic cooperation between our two countries, our next ten-year assistance relationship, and Israel's long-term economic and military security requirements.

Senior officials in the defense establishment believe that Israel should strive for the achievement of an increase in American military aid. The current agreement that defines American aid to Israel will expire next year, and with it the civilian economic aid will end as well.

Israel wants another $50 million annually in the coming decade to be added to the sum it receives for military aid - which currently stands at $2.4 billion a year.

The government has accepted this position and has decided that the increase in aid should be the main focus, that it would be better to put the other upgrade requests on a back burner for now.

Last December U.S. lawmakers received the updated summary of the total American arms sales to foreign countries in the years 1998-2005, which was prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) on the basis of data gathered at the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA).

Israel stars in both parts of this report - the first, which deals with signed agreements, and the second, which documents equipment that has been supplied - along with a number of other countries both in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Egypt, which enjoys the most generous level of American aid after Israel, has signed more agreements than Israel since 2002 and has also received more equipment: $8.5 billion to Egypt compared with $4.4 billion to Israel.

The summary for the years 1998-2005 shows that Saudi Arabia acquired almost as much as Israel and Egypt put together - equipment that is worth about $17 billion. Israel has received $8.1 billion worth of equipment and Egypt $9.1 billion.

Taiwan, incidentally, is the country outside the Middle East that has acquired equipment for the highest sum outside the Middle East since 1998: a total of $10.1 billion.