Sometimes a minor official in a large bureaucracy can insert something into a document and cause a major ruckus.
That is exactly what happened in recent days and is still in the headlines, which claim that a serious quarrel has erupted between Israel and the United States over the 10-year defense assistance pact (memorandum of understanding, or MOU) that has been under negotiation.
Someone who wants to cause harm to the government in Yerushalayim — and such people are not few in number, especially in the Israeli media — has depicted the situation as he wishes it to be. But the reality is another matter entirely.
So what, then, is the quarrel between the United States and Israel over defense assistance?
The simple truth is that such a quarrel hardly exists at all. Both sides agree that the aid, which totals about $3.1 billion a year, will continue. It is further agreed that the package will include a supplement for the development of more advanced missiles.
The question revolves around how much that supplement will be. Will it be about $800 million, as the Israelis are requesting, or more like $500 million, as the Americans are proposing? And will the new, larger sum be incorporated into the basic U.S. budget for the next 10 years, or will it be reviewed on an annual basis?
The dispute emerged after a six-page paper was publicized in Washington regarding the argument between Capitol Hill and the White House about every item in the U.S. defense budget. It was here that some obscure bureaucrat who, on his own initiative, inserted into that document (which except for three lines had nothing to do with Israel) a statement to the effect that a dispute existed between the two countries about the scope of the military aid package, and the missile funding in particular.
On Wednesday night, the Americans issued a statement saying that the claim of AIPAC that the White House is somehow opposed to supporting Israeli missile defense is baseless. “We continue to be committed to Israel’s military defense, including the missile development program.” And there was also a hint that the so-called dispute is actually part of the internal U.S. political situation and has nothing to do with Israel.
The acting Israeli national security advisor, Jacob Nagel, said that Israel would like to conclude MOU talks and be done with the whole saga. Nagel said that he doesn’t believe President Barack Obama will cut support for missile defense, since he has said repeatedly that it is of utmost importance.
“The White House thinks that the $455 million for missiles is excessive, and they want to lower the amount. There is no crisis and no cause for concern. We are negotiating to reach the best possible deal for Am Yisrael. We are near the end of the process.
“I don’t want to say that it will be concluded within two weeks or three, or a month. When we get to the point when it’s their final offer, we will decide to take it or not. But we want to finish it up soon,” said Nagel.
That should be the last word on the matter, concerning a tempest in a teapot.