Israel is asking the United States for $5 billion in annual defense aid for a decade, beginning in 2017, US congressional sources told Reuters on Wednesday.
The request — a total of $50 billion — is a significant increase from Israel’s current aid package, which stands at close to $3 billion per year. The sources estimated that the White House and Israel would ultimately agree on a sum between $4 billion and $5 billion.
The sources stressed that the negotiations were still in the early stages.
“First they have to negotiate with the White House,” a senior congressional aide told Reuters.
Israel was said earlier this week to have finalized its “shopping list” of desired US military material as part of a new long-term agreement for US defense assistance to Israel to maintain its qualitative edge in the region.
On the list, and reportedly approved in principle by the US, is an Israeli request for V-22 Ospreys, planes which are believed capable of reaching Iran and which Israel reportedly sought from the US in 2012 — but later decided not to purchase due to budgetary restraints — when contemplating a strike on Iran’s Fordo enrichment facility.
The new list was presented at meetings with senior defense officials from both countries ahead of the planned meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama at the White House on November 9.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon was in Washington last week to meet with his counterpart Ashton Carter and discuss the security memorandum to replace the current one, which provided for over $30 billion in US military aid spread over a decade, and will expire in 2018.
Israel has already contracted for more than 30 F-35 multirole fighter planes; it may ultimately want 50, or even 75. It also seeks a host of F-15 jets which incorporate Israeli-developed advanced technologies and are considered the “workhorse” of the Israeli Air Force.
The US is said to have approved Israel’s request for V-22 Ospreys, the Ynet Hebrew news site reported on Sunday. The Ospreys are aircraft that take off and land like helicopters but fly like fixed-wing planes and are reportedly able to reach Iran.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal last month, Israel sought US “military hardware useful for a strike” on Iran in summer 2012. “At the top of the list were V-22 Ospreys.” The plan was reportedly to drop commandos into Iran for an attack on the Fordow enrichment facility. “Ospreys don’t need runways, making them ideal for dropping commandos behind enemy lines,” the Journal reported.
Also in 2012, according to the Journal, Israel sounded out officials about obtaining the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, the US military’s 30,000-pound bunker-busting bomb, which was designed for penetrating the underground Fordow site.
There have been no reports that Israel is seeking the Massive Ordnance Penetrator this time.
Under a separate budgetary hierarchy, the US administration is understood to be well-disposed to ensure funding for Israel’s missile defense systems — maintaining and improving the Iron Dome and the Arrow systems, and deploying David’s Sling, to ensure Israel can counter threats from neighboring Gaza, south Lebanon and Syria, as well as from an Iran that is relentlessly developing its ballistic missile systems.
The increasing involvement of Iran and Russia across Israel’s northern border raises new challenges on which Israel and the US are said to largely see eye-to-eye.
During the Carter-Ya’alon joint address last week in Washington, Carter pledged to enhance “the entire spectrum” of “our defense relationship… from tunnels and terrorists right up through the high-end.”
Carter also reiterated Washington’s “iron-clad commitment” to Israel’s qualitative military edge, which he called “a cornerstone of our strategy in the Middle East.”
“This is one of the most trusted relationships we have in the world and so when we discover something that is critical to both of us, we share it, and we do that from electronic warfare to cyber to all kinds of … tremendous intelligence sharing,” he added
“The alliance is a two-way street, and we appreciate what we get as well as what we give, and it’s an alliance that makes us stronger too,” he went on.