Barak aides deny he'll ask US to increase military aid

Defense minister in interview: Aid will be used to guard from potential threats in light of changes, upheaval in MidEast.

By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER
March 8, 2011 20:48
2 minute read.
Barak

Barak 58 reuters. (photo credit: Reuters)

Aides to Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday dismissed reports that he will ask the US to increase its annual military aid to Israel by $20 billion, saying that the statement made in an interview this week with the Wall Street Journal was merely a suggestion about how recent popular uprisings in the Middle East may require Israel to reexamine its military needs.

“The issue of qualitative military aid for Israel becomes more essential for us, and I believe also more essential for you. It might be wise to invest another $20 billion to upgrade the security of Israel for the next generation or so,” The Wall Street Journal quoted Barak as saying.

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Barak added, “A strong responsible Israel can become a stabilizer in such a turbulent region.”

If Israel were to make such a request, a State Department official said Tuesday, it would be evaluated in keeping with America’s commitment to maintaining Israel’s regional supremacy.

“Each and every security assistance request from the Israeli government is evaluated in light of our policy to uphold Israel’s qualitative military edge,” the official said.

The official stressed that the Obama administration has “not only honored and re-energized America’s enduring commitment to Israel’s security, but has taken action to expand it to an unprecedented level,” pointing to an increase in security assistance, security consultations and support for Israel’s new Iron Dome missile defense system.

During the interview, Barak also restated Israeli fears that Egypt may renege on its 1979 peace treaty with Israel, quoting a top Egyptian official who reportedly warned him recently that whatever new government emerges in Cairo, it will probably have a different approach to ties with Israel and push for changes in the country's policies on the Palestinian issue.

"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," Barak told the Journal.

Israel receives $3 billion in US aid per year, of which the overwhelming majority is earmarked for military use to help Israel maintain its qualitative military edge in the region.

In December, the US House of Representatives agreed to add $205 million in funding to Israel to help pay for the Iron Dome project, a short-range rocket defense system.

Hilary Leila Krieger contributed reporting from Washington.


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