Livni praises US aid package to Israel

Washington to provide J'lem with $30b over 10 years for munition purchases.

iaf plane f-15i 29888idf (photo credit: IDF)
iaf plane f-15i 29888idf
(photo credit: IDF)
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Thursday commended the memorandum of understanding signed between Israel and the US outlining the $30 billion defense aid package Washington will provide Jerusalem over the next decade. Livni met with US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns and thanked him for the contribution to strengthening Israel's security, Israel Radio reported. The two also spoke of the need to block the Iranian threat. Burns and US Ambassador to Israel Richard Jones represented the US at the signing ceremony at the Foreign Ministry, while Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fisher, Foreign Ministry Director-General Aaron Abramovich, Defense Ministry Director-General Pinchas Buchris and Ambassador to the US Salai Meridor represented Israel. "We look at this region and we see that a secure and strong Israel is in the interest of the United States," Burns said in a press conference following the signing. "The Middle East is more dangerous today than it was 10, 20 year ago…The regional dangers seem only to increase as Iran develops nuclear technologies and along with Syria supports organizations like Hamas, Hizbullah and the Islamic Jihad." "We will continue to show the same support to our other allies in the region, like Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain...the road to peace includes showing countries like Iran and Syria that the US reinforces its allies' militaries. Every peace agreement in the region was signed with that notion in mind," he added. Burns, who postponed his visit by about a week so that final details of the package could be hammered out, arrived in Israel Wednesday and held separate talks with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Finance Minister Roni Bar On, and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, who is in charge of the strategic dialogue with the US. Burns was also slated to meet Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Thursday, and will travel to Ramallah for meetings with Palestinian leaders on Friday. The State Department issued a statement saying that in addition to the aid package, Burns would also be discussing Iran with Israel. The statement said he would discuss "the development of a political horizon and American humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people" with the Palestinian leadership. The proposed US arms sale to Saudi Arabia is also expected to be a focus of the talks with Burns. The Bush administration is in the process of putting together an arms sale-package to Saudi Arabia and five other Gulf states, a package that reports in the press have put at about $20 billion. Although Olmert has made clear that Israel did not plan to fight the sale, Israeli officials have been lobbying over the past few months for some restrictions on the proposed sale of Joint Direct Attack Munitions, which turn standard bombs into "smart" precision-guided bombs, that the US wants to include in the package to the Saudis.