The Arab 48 News Agency reported today that US Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, announced on Thursday that the United States will provide Israel with $70 million in immediate aid for the purchase of additional Iron Dome rocket defense batteries. This was needed for Israel to meet its fiscal requirements for 2012. In addition, he said that the US was in talks with Israel about the possibility of establishing a multi-year budget plan to assist Israel in purchasing additional batteries.
Panetta made the announcement following a meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak at the Pentagon. Barak was in Washington for talks aimed at coordinating strategy with the US ahead of the second round of talks between western powers and Iran scheduled to open next week in Baghdad.
Since the deployment of the system last year, Iron Dome batteries have intercepted over 90 Katyusha and Kassam rockets fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip.
The new aid package comes after the Obama administration gave Israel $205 million in 2011 and comes on top of the $3 billion Israel receives in annual foreign aid from the United States.
Barak thanked the US for its support and said that Israeli-US defense ties had never been as strong as they were today under the Obama administration. ‘The US decision to support further enhancing Israel’s security is an important demonstration of the unbreakable bonds between the United States and Israel,‚ÄĚ Barak said.
In an interview late Wednesday, Barak told CNN the United States and Israel are essentially ‘on the same page’ over the Iranian nuclear program. ‘We say loud and clear, the Americans say the same, the president says the same – a nuclear military Iran is unacceptable,’ he said. ‘We are determined to prevent them from turning nuclear. And that no option except for containment, no option should be removed off the table in order to achieve this objective.’