'Israel paying heavy price for clash with Obama over Iran’

Israel, US at loggerheads over next defense assistance program.

May 4, 2016 02:18
2 minute read.
Amos Yadlin


Israel is paying a heavy price for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to confront US President Barack Obama head-on last year over the Iran nuclear agreement, former Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin said Monday. The embittered relations that followed that clash form a key factor that is holding up agreement on the US’s defense assistance program to Israel for the next 10 years, Yadlin argued.

Yadlin, who is the executive director of the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), published a paper on Monday saying that the ongoing failure by the US and Israel to reach a Memorandum of Understanding, which would stipulate American defense assistance to Israel in the next decade, is partly due to bad blood between both leaders.

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He cited clashes between Obama Administration and Netanyahu government last summer as a significant factor.

“Clashes over the Iranian nuclear agreement and the discord of the memorandum of understanding in 2015 were the result of a mistaken policy, for which Israel is paying a heavy price, including in the defense issue,” Yadlin wrote.

The inability to reach an agreement cannot solely be explained by numbers and accounting issues, Yadlin said.

The two sides are separated by deep gaps and differences of opinion stemming from divergent strategic views of the threats in the Middle East, and disagreement over extent to which Israel is a strategic asset to the US, he added.

Yadlin, who was Zionist Union’s candidate for defense minister in the last election, wrote that in the summer of 2015, “The government of Israel took up an approach of confrontation with the [US] administration, and turned a cold shoulder to American offers to provide a response to dangers that stem from the nuclear agreement. The Israeli refusal to discuss with Secretary of Defense Ash Carter the issue of compensation to Israel, prior the approval of the [Iran] agreement, and the vote on it, as well as the defiant speech given by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Congress, very much weakened the Israeli position in defense talks after the vote in Congress,” Yadlin said.

He called on the Israeli government to renew contacts with the Obama administration in order to formulate comprehensive agreements, chief among them, responses to the long-term Iranian threat, safeguarding Israel’s qualitative edge, and upgrading Israel’s position in bilateral defense and intelligence issues.

Within that context, Yadlin said, the defense assistance agreement should be interwoven.

A letter by 83 senators to President Obama last week, calling for him to support a long-term agreement that will significantly enlarge defense assistance to Israel, was important due its bipartisan nature, the former military intelligence commander added.

He said both sides should seek an agreement that will safeguard Israeli’s right to ask for additional assistance from the next administration in Washington and from Congress, “in case pessimistic forecasts come true regarding Iran’s rise, the rise of ISIS, or if additional negative developments occur in the Middle East.”

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