Deal on US military aid package to Israel 'soon,' diplomatic officials say

Agreement on new 10-year defense aid deal seen as heading for conclusions.

An Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket in southern Israel (photo credit: REUTERS)
An Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket in southern Israel
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Progress is being made in negotiations over a new 10-year aid package, though after three days of intensive talks in Washington the final deal still remains elusive, Israeli and US officials said on Thursday.
Acting National Security Council chief Yaakov Nagel traveled to Washington on Monday to try and conclude the deal, known as the Memorandum of Understanding. He was accompanied by Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin, head of the IDF’s Planning Directorate.
The Israeli delegation met with US National Security Adviser Susan Rice and top Mideast staffer on the NSC, Yael Lampert.
According to diplomatic officials in Jerusalem, “the US and Israel hope to reach an agreement soon.”
The new MoU will replace the existing 10-year, $30 billion framework set to expire in October 2017. The new deal is expected to be worth some $38b. over the next decade, but this sum will also include supplemental aid for missile defense that was not included in the previous agreement, and averaged about $400 million a year.
In addition, while the existing deal allows Israel to convert 26 percent of the funds into shekels for procurement in Israel, the deal under negotiation now is likely to phase that out, with Israel supposed to gradually be required to use all the money on purchases inside the US – something expected to hurt Israel’s defense industries.
Under the deal that is about to expire, Israel was also allowed to spend $400m. a year on military fuels, a provision that will probably not be renewed under the current framework.
“We’ve made progress and closed many of the remaining gaps,” a senior administration official confirmed to The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, adding that the White House hopes “to be able to reach final agreement” as soon as possible.
Asked whether one of those closed gaps was on the provision regarding using part of the funds in Israel, known as offshore procurement, the official declined to go into any detail of the talks.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters in a briefing earlier this week that Israel’s preference was to complete the talks with the current administration, as that would send a strong message of bipartisan support for Israel’s security. The previous MoU was signed under the Bush administration.
Michael Wilner in Washington contributed to this report.