Netanyahu fires back at critics of US military aid deal
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Michael Oren: 'We look like people who don't recognize a favor'

Netanyahu fires back at critics of US military aid deal

Former ambassador to US says Jewish state seems ungrateful, greedy in Washington for crying over $38 billion package

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday, September 18, 2016 (AFP PHOTO / POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday, September 18, 2016 (AFP PHOTO / POOL)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rebuffed criticism of a $38 billion, 10-year military aid agreement between Jerusalem and Washington signed last week, accusing “interested parties” of spreading disinformation and showing ingratitude toward Washington.

“I hear all kinds of background noise and disinformation about the agreement,” he said at Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting. “I would like to make it clear: We were never offered more. We were not offered more money, not even one dollar, and we were never offered special technologies.”

Netanyahu seemed to be directing his comments at former prime minister Ehud Barak, former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and former head of IDF military intelligence Amos Yadlin, all of whom accused the prime minister of reaching an aid package significantly smaller than originally expected.

The new military package will grant Israel $3.8 billion annually — up from the $3 billion pledged under the previous 10-year Memorandum of Understanding — starting in 2018 and through 2028.

Former prime minister Ehud Barak speaks at a conference for the left-wing Darkenu organization in Rishon Lezion on August 17, 2016. (Neri Lider)
Former prime minister Ehud Barak speaks at a conference for the left-wing Darkenu organization in Rishon Lezion on August 17, 2016. (Neri Lider)

The prime minister said the “saddest thing” in his eyes was that the deal’s critics were “showing ingratitude… to our greatest and best friend, the United States.”

“This is an agreement that will greatly strengthen the security of Israel, and we should all welcome it and express our appreciation to the United States,” the prime minister said.

Senior Labor Party MK Shelly Yachimovich mocked Netanyahu’s chastisement of his critics.

“The funniest thing is that Netanyahu is sternly rebuking his critics on the failures of the aid agreement over their ‘ingratitude’ toward the Americans. Teach us more, prime minister,” she quipped in a tweet, alluding to the premier’s much-reported discord with the Obama administration.

Zionist Union MK Shelly Yachimovich on April 12, 2016 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Zionist Union MK Shelly Yachimovich on April 12, 2016 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Barak and Yadlin, as well as a senior US official, said Netanyahu’s appearance before the US Congress in March 2015 to lobby against the Iran nuclear deal that Obama was pushing for — a move that the White House viewed as unprecedented interference by a foreign leader — poisoned the atmosphere of the aid talks.

Oren: Deal critics paint Israel as ungrateful, greedy

Deputy Minister for Diplomacy Michael Oren, a former ambassador to the US, on Sunday joined the prime minister in sharply criticizing the aid deal’s critics.

The US-born Oren cautioned that the reproach over the defense deal, which was signed last week, could paint Israel as ungrateful and greedy.

“My nose is picking up an acrid odor coming from the discourse in recent days,” he told the Hebrew-language NRG website.

President Barack Obama welcomes Ambassador Michael B. Oren of the State of Israel to the White House Monday, July 20, 2009, during the credentials ceremony for newly appointed ambassadors to the United States (White House photo)
President Barack Obama welcomes Ambassador Michael B. Oren of the State of Israel to the White House, July 20, 2009, during the credentials ceremony for newly appointed ambassadors to the United States (White House photo)

“There are those who when they hear the discourse here are likely to recall well-known depictions and libels against the Jews,” he added. “Put yourself in the place of the Americans and ask yourself how the debate here sounds in the USA.

“We received a very good and very respectable package. We should say, ‘Thank you very much,’ and keep our mouths shut. Instead, it sounds like the Israelis got nearly $40 billion but there are still all kinds of people who are claiming, ‘We could have got more out of the Americans and got more money.’ This public debate is damaging to us. We look like people who don’t recognize a favor,” he said.

According to earlier reports, Israel had asked for a separate $400 million deal for missile defense spending — which could have raised the total amount to more than $4 billion annually. The final figure, however, was set without that provision.

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