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

Netanyahu says significant increase in defense budget is inevitable.

Barak 58 reuters (photo credit: Reuters)
Barak 58 reuters
(photo credit: Reuters)
With or without a peace agreement with the Palestinians, Israel will have to significantly increase its defense spending in the next budget, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said in private meetings over the last few days.
According to Netanyahu, this increase is necessary to provide an answer to the increasing threats facing the country, including tens of thousands of missiles aimed at Israel.
A peace agreement would also require increased spending for security, something he said would likely necessitate financial assistance from the West to provide Israel with the security apparatus needed to compensate for the agreement.
One possible source of funding for the defense increase will be the profits the country stands to gain from the recent natural gas finds, he has said.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, meanwhile, was quoted in a Wall Street Journal interview Tuesday as saying that Israel would need to boost military spending and may seek an additional $20 billion in US security aid to deal with the threats arising from the upheaval in the region.
“The issue of qualitative military aid for Israel becomes more essential for us, and I believe also more essential for you,” Barak was quoted as saying.
“It might be wise to invest another $20 billion to upgrade the security of Israel for the next generation or so... A strong, responsible Israel can become a stabilizer in such a turbulent region.”
Aides to Barak, however, downplayed the comment, saying he was merely offering a suggestion about how recent popular uprisings in the Middle East might require Israel to reexamine its military needs.
If Israel were to make such a request, it would be evaluated in keeping with American’s commitment to maintaining Israel’s regional supremacy, a State Department official said.
“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... taken action to expand it to an unprecedented level.”
The official pointed to an increase in security assistance, security consultations and support for Israel’s new Iron Dome missile defense system.
Israel receives $3b. in US aid per year, of which the overwhelming majority is earmarked for military use to help Israel maintain its qualitative military edge.
The Wall Street Journal quoted defense analysts as saying Israel spends some $17b. a year – including the $3b. from the US – on defense, a sum that is roughly 9 percent of the country’s gross national product.
In December, the US House agreed to add $205 million in funding to Israel to help pay for the Iron Dome project, a shortrange rocket defense system.