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Defense Minister Ehud Barak Photo: AFP
Defense Minister Ehud Barak Photo: AFP
 
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Photo: Gil Yohanan
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Photo: Gil Yohanan
 
 

Israel seeks $20 billion in US military aid

Defense Minister sees no immediate threat in Egypt but fears repercussions of Mideast unrest. In Wall Street Journal interview, he says military upgrade can turn Israel into regional stabilizer

Ynet
Published: 03.08.11, 10:15 / Israel News

Defense Minister Barak said Israel might request an additional $20 billion in military assistance from the United States in order to prepare for possible threats, given the recent unrest in the Middle East.

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In an interview with The Wall Street Journal published Tuesday, Barak said that Israel should not fear regional changes or the risk of offering valiant concessions to the Palestinians.

 

"It's a historic earthquake...a movement in the right direction, quite inspired," Barak said, referring to revolts in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and the Gulf. "It's a movement of the Arab societies toward modernity."

 

He nevertheless stressed that the Egyptian public might influence the new leadership in such a way which could cause it to distance itself from the peace treaty with Israel.


 

Barak and Clinton (Photo: Reuters Archive)

 

"The issue of qualitative military aid for Israel becomes more essential for us, and I believe also more essential for you," Barak stressed. "It might be wise to invest another $20 billion to upgrade the security of Israel for the next generation or so....A strong, responsible Israel can become a stabilizer in such a turbulent region."

 

Current US military aid to Israel stands at more than $3 billion a year. Israel will have to increase its defense expenses in the long run despite there being no immediate threat, Barak said.

 

He believes it is too early to tell whether Iran is taking advantage of regional unrest to expand its influence. Barak also noted that prior to the wave of Arab protests "You could see Arab leaders starting to hedge their bets on who is the strongest leader here, Iran or the United States."

 

A 'daring' peace offer?

The defense minister did not question Egypt's commitment to the peace treaty "for the time being" and noted he had already spoken to his Egyptian counterpart, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi - the newly appointed commander-in-chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces.

 

In the interview Barak said that according to a senior Egyptian official, whose name he did not mention, Israel should expect "the cold shoulder" from Cairo if it fails to advance the Palestinian peace process.

 

"He told me: 'We're going to have a really open election....Civic parties will hire advisers from the US and Europe and find immediately that what can bring them voters is hostility to America and Israel." 

 

At a time when the US government continues to pressure Israel and the Palestinians to renew their talks, Barak knows one cannot request military aid without making a "daring" peace offer. The defense minister said that current discussions among Israeli officials revolve around this issue, adding that Netanyahu is expected to present his initiative soon.

 

The proposal will most likely include, according to Barak, a Palestinian state with provisional borders – prior to talks on other core issues.

 

The Palestinians have already announced they will reject such an offer, but Barak believes Israel and the US must promise Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that a full-fledged agreement is on the agenda.

 

 

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