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He noted that Saudi Arabia, the smaller Gulf countries and Israel share the same concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program and the spread of extremist Islamic forces. “So as long as the Gulf countries become more sophisticated in protecting their territories, this will cause more difficulties to Iran, and that’s a good thing,” Zakheim said.
An August 15 article published in Defense News first reported that Israel is seeking an increase in the foreign aid, which reached $30 billion in the decade-long agreement signed in 2007. Israeli officials confirmed to the Forward that informal talks are already taking place, but they said intense detailed discussions are not planned for the near future.
Much has changed since the last military aid deal was signed, in 2007. Israel’s neighborhood has become even more volatile, as the Arab Spring toppled or threatened long-standing authoritarian regimes. This has deprived Israel of a certain regional predictability it enjoyed, even with regimes with which it remained in a state of war.
Meanwhile, the U.S. economy is still struggling to recover from its worst slump since the Great Depression, forcing the federal government to cut back on all government expenses, and raising new doubts about the affordability of a robust foreign aid program.
While other nations struggle to receive American taxpayer dollars, Israel rarely faces resistance. Strong support in the administration and Congress, coupled with favorable public opinion and a strong lobby advocating for the cause, has made sustaining and increasing military aid to Israel an easy sell. This time around should be no different, officials and experts knowledgeable about the process say, despite the changed environment.
“It is not a matter of arm-twisting,” Zakheim said. “There is a long-standing commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge that has been accepted by the United States for good reasons.”
In preliminary talks, Israel began to lay out the principles it would like to see guide the next aid package. One will aim to put a dollar sum on the cost of maintaining Israel’s QME. This estimate will take into account what it will take to ensure that Israel’s armed forces are always one step ahead of their adversaries — or those Israel argues are adversaries — in the region. The second will be to include missile defense programs, currently funded through a separate Pentagon budget line, in the foreign aid program managed through the State Department’s budget.
“We’re looking at a holistic Middle Eastern picture, which includes growth of missile arsenals in Lebanon and Gaza; the strategic situation in Sinai; the Syrian situation as it impacts us and other countries, including Jordan,” Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, told Defense News. “Therefore, we will be looking for a long-term [memorandum of understanding] that will address all of the issues that are routinely raised in our very close and high-level consultations with our American counterparts.”