Netanyahu Defends Record $38 Billion U.S. Defense Package

  • Critics say Netanyahu’s strained relations with U.S. hurt deal
  • Accord imposes restrictions, including no supplemental funding

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu deflected criticism of the record $38 billion defense package Israel will receive from the U.S. over the next 10 years, saying no better deal could have been won.

Detractors including former Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak and former military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin said last week that the 10-year agreement is worse than previous accords because of various restrictions it imposes. They also maintained it could have been more generous if Netanyahu had been more diplomatic in his opposition to the U.S.-led nuclear accord world powers signed with Iran last year.

Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting.
Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting.
Photographer: Gali Tibbon/AFP via Getty Images

“I’ve heard all kinds of noise and disinformation about the agreement,” Netanyahu said in a weekly Cabinet meeting. “I want to make it clear: We’ve never been offered more. We weren’t offered more money, not even a single dollar more, and we weren’t offered special technologies. Those are lies and fabrications from interested parties.”

After initially pushing off talks on defense aid following the nuclear accord, Israel decided not to hold out until after a new American president is elected to approve a package. While the deal increased aid to $3.8 billion annually from about $3 billion, it bars Israel from seeking supplemental funding from Congress as it has repeatedly done. It also requires the Israeli military to use all the money to buy American goods, whereas previous accords allowed 26 percent to be spent in Israel on domestic defense products.

Barak, writing in a Washington Post column last week, said that due to a 20 percent increase in the cost of arms over the past decade and the no-supplements clause, Israel is actually getting less money. Yadlin, speaking in an Israel Army radio interview last week, said the deal was payback for the prime minister’s harsh criticism of the Iran nuclear accord before a joint session of Congress last year.

‘Un-called For’

Netanyahu “gave an uncalled-for speech to Congress, and we’re paying for it,” he said.

To offset the negative effects of a winding down of spending in domestic industries, Israeli arms companies such as Israel Military Industries Ltd, Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd., and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. are looking into setting up subsidiaries in the U.S. or collaborating with American partners, TheMarker reported.

Much of the criticism is politically motivated and those who say Israel could have gotten more money aren’t showing any evidence for their arguments, according to Shaul Shay, director of Research at the Institute for Policy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.

“This agreement was a reflection of the longstanding strategic alliance between Israel and the U.S., and I think it goes above and beyond the people who are at the top of both countries’ governments,” said Shay, also a former deputy head of Israel’s National Security Council. “You have to look at whether this is the correct response to the Israeli security challenges, and I believe it is.”

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