Israel Pushes for Boost in U.S. Aid to More Than $3B a Year
Beltway Wrangling Starts Now as Deal Expires in 2017
Israel’s 10-year assistance agreement with the United States doesn’t expire until 2017. But in Washington time, that’s not too far away for Israel to argue now for increasing aid levels when the agreement is renewed.
Citing the ongoing instability in the Middle East, Israel is already pushing for an increase in U.S. military aid to address new challenges and to ensure Israeli military superiority in the region.
More specifically, in renewal talks that are ongoing between the two countries, Israel is pointing to, among other things, recent sales of advanced American weaponry to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Under a doctrine stemming from statutory language in earlier legislation, the United States, Israeli officials point out, is committed by law to ensuring that Israel maintains a “qualitative military edge,” — known more commonly as QME — over any of its Arab neighbors.
The 2008 law, seen as mainly declarative at the time, could provide the legal basis for increasing aid to Israel in order to ensure its military edge.
“Naturally we are talking about our needs, and as we get closer to 2017 we will discuss the details of what the next package will include and under what conditions,” an Israeli official briefed on the discussions said. Still, opposition to an increase exists, and it comes, in some cases, from some surprising places.
“There’s a diminished threat from the Syrian army and no increase in the power of the Egyptian army,” noted Elliott Abrams, deputy national security adviser in the Bush administration. Abrams, who is generally regarded as hawkish, said that, for now, Syria and Egypt are preoccupied with war on, or repression of, their own rebellious citizens and thus pose less risk to Israel, with consequent implications for Israel’s military aid requirements. He noted also that Egypt’s military is not expected to receive any boost in its current level of American aid.
As for the recent American arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE., Dov Zakheim, a former top Pentagon official who sat in on many discussions about military aid to Israel, said, “If you look at the issues, Israel and the Gulf states are on the same page.”
He noted that Saudi Arabia, the smaller Gulf countries and Israel share the same concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program and the spread of extremist Islamic forces. “So as long as the Gulf countries become more sophisticated in protecting their territories, this will cause more difficulties to Iran, and that’s a good thing,” Zakheim said.
An August 15 article published in Defense News first reported that Israel is seeking an increase in the foreign aid, which reached $30 billion in the decade-long agreement signed in 2007. Israeli officials confirmed to the Forward that informal talks are already taking place, but they said intense detailed discussions are not planned for the near future.