Barak: Israel may seek additional $20b. in US defense aid

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

March 8, 2011 08:44
2 minute read.

Barak 58 reuters. (photo credit: Reuters)


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Israel may seek an additional $20 billion in US security assistance to help guard from the potential threats that could develop in light of recent changes occurring in the Middle East, the Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the Wall Street Journal in an interview published Tuesday.

Barak added that Israel should not fear the regional changes, or risk the opportunity to make potential concessions to the Palestinians for peace.

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Speaking with the Wall Street Journal, Barak reinstated fears in Israel that Egypt's new leadership could teeter away from agreements made in the 1979 peace treaty, and that Iran and Syria may not succumb to the moderating factors in the Arab world that are bringing "Arab societies towards modernity."

The defense minister, speaking on Iran, said it was too early to tell whether or not the Islamic Republic was exploiting the regional upheaval to its benefit, adding that before the revolts Arab leaders were already "starting to hedge their bets on who is the strongest leader here, Iran or the United States."

Defense analysts reported that Israel spends roughly nine percent of its gross national product on defense, capping $17 billion this year, of which US aid is $3 billion. While Israel faces no immediate threat, Barak told the Wall Street Journal, it would have to increase spending in the long-term.

Barak mentioned that he had spoken with Egypt's chief of the military council Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who replaced Hosni Mubarak last month, and told him that the two countries shared responsibility "to avoid that our young people fight again." A different Egyptian leader, however, whom Barak did not name, said that Israel could expect a different attitude from the Egyptian government if Israel did not actively pursue peace with the Palestinians.

The defense minister told the Wall Street Journal that the Egyptian authority "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.'"

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