Israel and the US have reportedly been holding preliminary and unofficial talks over a “compensation” package for Jerusalem that would include the delivery of advanced weapons in exchange for the Netanyahu government’s quiet acceptance of the emerging nuclear deal with Iran.
The package could include an increase in the number of F-35 fighter jets the US is to supply Israel, and additional batteries for Israel’s anti-missile defense systems, according to reports in both Haaretz (Hebrew) and Yedioth Ahronoth this week.
A senior Obama administration official told Yedioth that “the White House is willing to pay a hefty price to get some quiet from the Israelis at this point. We are surprised the demand has not been made.”
But the newspaper also quoted an unnamed Israeli source as conveying a more ambivalent stance about the reported talks.
“If we come with demands at this point, it would mean that we have given up our objections to the deal, and now it is just a matter of at what price. If Israel believes that the deal is bad for its security, it cannot appear as someone who gave up in the end,” the paper quoted the source as saying.
According to the reports in both Haaretz and Yedioth, the US-Israel talks revolved around enhancing a previously negotiated deal to supply Israel with 33 F-35 aircraft, the first batch of which was expected next year. The total number of jets could go up to 50, Haaretz reported.
Israel was also said to be asking for more Iron Dome batteries, additional assistance with the Arrow 3 missile system developed jointly by the US and Israel, and possibly, for the purchase of technological systems for intelligence gathering.
Earlier this month, the US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee approved $474 million for Israel’s anti-missile systems.
Included in the US-Israel cooperative missile defense funds is $41.4 million for the short-range Iron Dome rocket defense system, $165 million for David’s Sling, another short-range system, and the longer-range Arrow-3 missile defense programs, as well as $267.6 million in research and development funds.
Israel has been a very vocal opponent of the nuclear deal the US-led P5+1 world powers are negotiating with Iran ahead of the June 30 deadline for an agreement. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that the deal paves the way for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons and that Israel’s very survival would be at stake.
“We oppose this deal and we are not the only ones,” Netanyahu said on Sunday, noting that regional Arab, largely Sunni Muslim states are also skeptical of the deal. “It is both necessary and possible to achieve a better deal because extremists cannot be allowed to achieve their aims, not in Iran, not in Yemen and not in Jerusalem.”
Arab states of the Gulf fear a nuclear deal could be a harbinger of closer US ties with their Shiite arch-foe Iran, a country they also see as fueling conflicts in Yemen, Syria and Iraq.
US President Barack Obama tried to reassure America’s Gulf allies at a Camp David summit last week that engaging with Iran would not come at their expense. These states were also reportedly negotiating their own “compensation packages” involving advanced equipment and weaponry from the US to counter the perceived Iranian threat.