Israel to Get $30 Billion in Military Aid From U.S.
JERUSALEM, Aug. 16 — Israel and the United States signed a deal on Thursday to give Israel $30 billion in military aid over the next decade in what officials called a long-term investment in peace.
The officials insisted that the deal was not dependent on a simultaneous American plan for $20 billion in sales of sophisticated arms to its Arab allies, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia. But Israeli officials acknowledged that the aid to Israel would make it easier for the Bush administration to win Congressional approval of the arms sales to Arab countries.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel has not objected to those arms sales, saying that he understands the United States’ need to support moderate Sunni Arab states that, like Israel, are opposed to Shiite Iran’s reach for regional supremacy and nuclear weapons.
The American under secretary of state for political affairs, R. Nicholas Burns, speaking at the signing ceremony here, said, “There is no question that, from an American point of view, the Middle East is a more dangerous region now even than it was 10 or 20 years ago and that Israel is facing a growing threat” from Iran and its ally, Syria.
The threat, he said, is “immediate and it’s also long term,” and he cited Iran’s support for organizations that the United States classified as terrorist and that were opposed to peace and stability in the region, like Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Palestinian territories and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.
The new aid to Israel will average $3 billion a year on a sliding scale, an increase of about 25 percent from current figures, to begin in October 2008. That year, American economic aid to Israel, which has a vibrant, growing economy, is scheduled to end. Uniquely, officials said, the new deal allows Israel to spend 26.3 percent of the aid on arms from Israel’s domestic military industry; the rest of the money must be spent on American equipment.
The Israelis have some specific reservations about what equipment might be sold to Saudi Arabia, however, despite American promises that Israel will keep its “qualitative edge” regionally in military technology.
Representative Steny H. Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland and the House majority leader, said in an interview on Thursday that “Congress will be supportive of the aid to Israel, but with respect to Saudi Arabia I think we will look at that more closely.” He said there were “specific concerns on guided missile technology that could be used defensively against Israel and that would be problematic.”
Some Israeli politicians have also discussed trying to limit Saudi deployment of new weapons systems to the east of the country, closer to Iran, keeping them away from Israel.
Mr. Burns and the Israeli team, led by the governor of the Bank of Israel, Stanley Fischer, who holds both American and Israeli citizenship, would not comment on the specifics of the arms deal.
Mr. Fischer said that Israel was grateful for the help, since it had one of the highest defense burdens “in what used to be called the free world,” amounting to 10 percent of gross domestic product.
Mr. Burns said, “This $30 billion in assistance to Israel is to be an investment in peace, in long-term peace — peace cannot be made without strength.”