A senior adviser to Donald Trump said Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should wait for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee to win the White House before signing a military aid deal with Washington, because Trump would offer a better deal than the Obama administration.
In an interview with Channel 2 television David Friedman said that a Trump administration would maintain Israel’s military advantage over its neighbors. He said Trump would not reduce defense aid to Israel but “in all likelihood will increase it significantly.”
“The aid package will certainly not go down in all likelihood it will go up in a material amount because Israel must maintain a technological and military superiority within the region,” Freidman said. “I can’t give advice how Israel should bargain and develop its own strategy.”
Friedman’s suggestion that Trump would increase aid to Israel apparently ran contrary to the GOP candidate’s call to make Israel pay back foreign aid. In March, Trump said he believed Israel should pay for defense aid it receives from the US. Asked whether he believed the Israeli government should pay for American defense, as he had called for other US allies such as South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia to do, he said “I think Israel will do that also, yeah, I think Israel do—there are many countries that can pay and they can pay big league.”
His comments came as Jerusalem and Washington grapple over a new 10-year defense aid pact to replace the current one, which expires in 2018 and grants the Jewish state more than $3 billion per year.
“Certainly the Trump administration is not looking to cut back on foreign aid and in all likelihood will increase it significantly,” Friedman said.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) asserted Tuesday that Israel and the US government were close to finalizing the multi-billion-dollar defense aid package.
“We need a good agreement within an appropriate amount of time and I see no contradiction between the two. I believe we can reach an agreement by November,” Liberman said in reference to the negotiations.
Liberman spoke ahead of an unveiling ceremony in Forth Worth, Texas, of the first F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter jet coming off the production line for Israeli delivery.
The US and Israel started negotiating a renewal of the 10-year defense package last summer, shortly after the completion of the Iranian nuclear deal.
The memorandum of understanding, as the aid package is formally known, is one of the underpinnings of the US-Israel relationship, and is likely to encompass some $5 billion in annual defense assistance during the next 10-year period.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.