Burns with Olmet
Photo: GPO
With Stanley Fischer
Photo: AFP

Israel, United States sign record-high military aid deal

United States offers Israel unprecedented $30-billion military aid package. ‘We look at this region and we see that a secure and strong Israel is in the interest of the United States,’ Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns says during signing ceremony in Jerusalem

The United States offered Israel on Thursday an unprecedented $30-billion military aid package, bolstering its closest Mideast ally.


The aid deal signed in a ceremony in Jerusalem represents a 25 percent rise in US military aid to Israel, from a current $2.4 billion each year to $3 billion a year over 10 years.


Nicholas Burns, the US Undersecretary of state for political affairs, and Israeli Foreign Minister Director-General Aharon Abramovitz signed the memorandum of understanding on the assistance at a ceremony in Jerusalem.


The package was meant in part to offset US plans to offer Saudi Arabia advanced weapons and air systems that would greatly improve the Arab country’s air force.


Israel has said it has no opposition to the US Aid to Saudi Arabia, which comes as the United States strengthens moderate Arabs in facing the growing influence of Iran.


The US Administration sees the regional threats to Israel - namely Iran, and the Hizbullah and Hamas militant groups - as threats to the United States as well, Burns said.


“We look at this region and we see that a secure and strong Israel is in the interest of the United States,” Burns said.


"The Middle East is more dangerous today than it was 10, 20 year ago…. The regional dangers seem only to increase as Iran develops nuclear technologies and along with Syria supports organizations like Hamas, Hizbullah and the Islamic Jihad.  


"We will continue to show the same support to our other allies in the region, like Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain...the road to peace includes showing countries like Iran and Syria that the US reinforces its allies' militaries. Every peace agreement in the region was signed with that notion in mind," he added.


Congressional approval still needed

The chief of Israel’s central bank, Stanley Fischer, said the US aid is of “critical importance” to Israel, whose defense budget constitutes about 10 percent of its Gross Domestic Product.


The aid package to Israel was finalized in June in Washington between US President George W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Olmert has said the increase in military aid to Israel would guarantee its strategic superiority, despite upgrades to Arab countries in the region.


The US Has long-standing commitments to Israel and to Egypt, which in 1979 became the first Arab state to make peace with Israel. Egypt currently gets $1.3 billion a year in military assistance.


At the same time, the US is seeking to strengthen other moderate Mideast allies, largely as a counterweight to Iran’s growing influence. The United States and Israel accuse Iran of developing nuclear bombs, a charge Tehran denies.


Iran, whose leader has repeatedly called for Israel to be wiped off the map, is viewed by Israel as its main enemy. Shiite Muslim Iran also concerns the Saudis and other Sunni-led Arab allies of the United States.


The Bush administration must still receive Congressional approval for the aid deals, but Burns said he believed there would be little opposition in the Senate and House to the Israeli package.


פרסום ראשון: 08.16.07, 12:43
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