U.S. defense aid to Israel is likely to increase after 2017, sources on both sides said on Thursday, seeing a possible link to Washington’s efforts to assuage its ally’s fears over nuclear diplomacy with Iran.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu confirmed at a press conference in Yerushalayim on Thursday evening that talks with the Pentagon were underway concerning longterm military assistance to Israel, but denied any linkage to Israel’s position on the Iranian nuclear deal.
A current package worth $3 billion a year expires in 2017. A U.S. official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said negotiators were close to a new deal that would bring annual payouts to $3.6-$3.7 billion on average.
An Israeli official, who also declined to be named, put the expected aid at between $3.5 billion and $4 billion.
“They [the United States] are trying to douse the fires after our flare-up about the Iran deal,” the official added, referring to curbs being negotiated on Tehran’s disputed nuclear program which Israel has condemned as insufficient.
In Washington, the Pentagon had no immediate comment. A spokesman for Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, asked about the U.S. aid figures, said: “This is not a matter that has been discussed recently,” but did not elaborate.
The previous U.S. administration signed a 10-year deal with Israel in 2007 giving it $30 billion, most of which must be spent on American military products. Washington has earmarked hundreds of millions more dollars for Israeli missile defenses.
Asked if the expected hike in defence grants to Israel was linked to Washington’s recent dealings with Iran and the Gulf Arab states, the U.S. official said: “Could be.”`