Netanyahu: U.S. Aid to Be Expanded, Not Cut

YERUSHALAYIM -
This photograph provided by the Israeli Ministry of Defense on Monday Dec. 21, 2015 shows a launch of David's Sling missile defense system. David's Sling is intended to counter medium-range missiles possessed by enemies throughout the region, most notably the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah. The system also aims to protect against low-altitude cruise missiles fired from longer distances. (Ministry of Defense via AP)
The launch of David’s Sling missile defense system. (Ministry of Defense via AP)

In a statement Wednesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office said that reports appearing in the Israeli media earlier that there was a dispute over U.S. aid to Israel were incorrect. Not only will aid not be cut – but it will be expanded, Netanyahu’s office said.

“Because of the many reports that are unclear and incorrect, we wish to inform the public that U.S. aid to Israel is not being cut. The issue discussed involves a dispute between Congress and the White House regarding the amount to be covered in the annual assistance to Israel for missile defense development. Prime Minister Netanyahu is working to increase American aid to Israel over the next decade.”

Overnight Tuesday, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget said that the Obama administration opposes the increase of aid to Israel that Congress has proposed. The aid package proposed by Congress would allocate a total of $600 million in 2017 to Israel – $454 million more than the amount President Barack Obama had planned to provide. The increased funds would go towards development of Israel’s missile defense systems, including Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and the Arrow system.

If Congress does approve the request, sources in the administration were quoted as saying in Israeli media, Obama will veto the bill.

The dispute comes on the background of discussions that have been going on between Israel and the U.S. on a new aid package for Israel. The ten year package will provide military aid on an ongoing basis, but would not include funding for the missile programs, which has been approved independently of the aid package until now.

One of the reasons for this, Israel Radio quoted Israeli officials as saying, is that those separate agreements have included provisions requiring Israel to spend all the money on equipment and technology in the U.S. or in cooperation with American agencies and companies – while if the missile money is included in the general aid package, Israel would be able to fund the program independently.

In its statement, Netanyahu’s office said that in any event, the aid to Israel would be increased. “Attempts to turn this dialogue into another political football is disturbing. The panic that this has engendered is unworthy of us,” the statement added.