US Military Aid Cutback Would Badly Hit Israel’s Missile Industry
Discussions on the ten-year US military aid package for Israel have reached their last lap – judging by the high-ranking Israeli negotiators who arrived in Washington this week and the intensity of their meetings at the Pentagon and the National Security Council in the White House.
One of the arrivals to the US capital was Israel’s Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, as the guest of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford. Another was the acting Head of the National Security Council, Yaakov Nagel.
Both sides appeared intent on winding up the deal with all possible speed.
US President Barack Obama is getting near the end of his term, while Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, is anxious to boost his image at home as ‘Mr. Security’ in the face of a barrage of criticism over management of the last Gaza war in 2014.
The Americans set the scene for the bargaining sessions ahead with their usual care as per instructions from the White House.
It was therefore not surprising to find the CCIS, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, publishing its report just ahead of the talks for detailing the security aid Israel received from Washington from 2002 up to the present day.
Its main theme centers on the assistance the US Missile Defense Agency, MDA poured into the Israel Defense Forces’ missile program, and stresses that this outlay was at the expense of America’s own missile development. The CCIS authors explain that the US Army was forced accordingly to shelve or forego essential plans for US defense programs against Iranian and North Korean missile attack.
The document demonstrates by graphs and figures how sharply these US resources diverted to Israel shot up over the years: just 2 pc of the MDA budget from 1998 to 2010, rising to 3.5 pc in 2011 and 9 pc in 2014.
It is now the intention of the US president and the Pentagon to halt this trend, say DEBKA Weekly’s Washington sources.
US and Israeli officials are not just dickering over the size of the US military aid package and its pathways – such as via the MDA – but also the extent of its expenditure outside the US.
The administration wants to phase out the provision dating from the 1980s that allows Israel to spend 26 pc of US aid on purchases from Israeli’s local armaments industries, so long as these items serve to boost its own military capabilities. The US intention now is to oblige Israel to henceforth spend the entire amount in America, in line with the aid programs for other countries, as a means of enhancing American defense industries.
The Netanyahu government is fighting this change for fear of its catastrophic impact on Israel’s home production of essential defensive hardware, for which the Obama administration in the past pledged additional financial support.
(In a letter dated August 19 2015, to US Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), President Obama promised to increase American military aid for Israel in developing new anti-missile systems and tunnel detection technologies, revealing the details of a compensation package Israel is set to receive from the United States after world powers and Iran agreed to a historic nuclear agreement in early July.)
The cutback of more than a quarter of US aid funding for Israeli home production would virtually seal the fate of essential anti-missiles weapons, such as the Iron Dome short-range missile systems, the David Slingshot missile (also known as Magic Wand) and their upgrading to meet constant threats.
These and many other innovative tools of defense were developed by the state-owned Elta and Rafael, Israel Aerospace Industries and Malat companies and the privately-owned Elbit, Verint, NICE Systems, Aeronautics and other companies.
Following a cutback in US funding, investment in these vital industries would dry up and topnotch technology and financial resources would go down the drain
For all these reasons, therefore, before the 10-year aid package is sealed with handshakes over signatures, the total amount is expected to expand from an annual $3 billion to $3.75 billion or even a little over $4 billion – equal to more than $40 billion over the next decade.
Both sides are rallying eleventh-hour backing for their respective cases, whether by well-judged leaks of data or lobbying efforts. A document has accordingly been signed by 83 out of 100 US senators supporting an increase in military aid to the Jewish State.
But the rocky personal relations between the US president and Israeli prime minister may take their toll: The victims may be Israel’s defensive capabilities against ballistic and other missiles and tens of thousands of jobs in its reduced armaments industries.