Liberman denies poor ties with US delaying defense package, says deal likely by November

After meeting with US counterpart, defense minister insists talks are progressing well, within a "good atmosphere."

Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman
(photo credit: REUTERS)
FORTH WORTH, Texas – Negotiations between the Prime Minister’s Office and the White House’s National Security Council on the coming decade’s American defense assistance package to Israel will likely conclude with a deal by November, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told military reporters here.
Liberman on Tuesday denied reports that talks were stalled because of poor bilateral diplomatic relations, saying that the sides were in the very last stages before a deal.
“The Americans are well aware of the threats we face, the terrorism that exists of every kind, on our borders, and of Iran’s destabilization efforts,” Liberman said.
He affirmed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was leading the talks for the defense assistance package, known as the Memorandum of Understanding, but that he (Liberman) had found an “existing situation” of talks at an advanced stage during his visit to the US, and had helped further them along.
“There is full coordination between the prime minister and myself in this field. The prime minister is managing the talks,” Liberman said. He also offered rare praise for his ousted predecessor, Moshe Ya’alon, for what he described as good management of previous contacts with the US over the MoU.
“The talks are being run well and correctly,” he said. “There are concerns in the Israeli defense industries..., [but] my assessment is that this will be concluded by November.”
Part of Israel’s decision to acquire more fifth-generation stealth F-35 fighter jets is dependent on how the MoU talks pan out, Liberman said, since a good portion of the jets will be paid for using American defense aid.
“We will try to purchase the additional jets,” Liberman said.
Liberman said it was interesting to hear the views of Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who spent decades in the American defense establishment, adding that the two men exchanged perspectives on a range of Middle East security developments.
Despite its small size, Israel has won American appreciation for its ability to share high-quality intelligence and its technological innovations in the world of defense, Liberman said.