Despite current tensions with the American president over today’s speech to Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his administration are requesting an additional $317 for Israel’s missile-defence programmes.
Seeking to lower tensions with the American administration, Netanyahu is casting the dispute over his controversial invitation to Washington as a family squabble. However, the Israeli leader claimed President Obama was not in a position to understand the depth of his concerns.
‘American leaders worry about the security of their country,’ Netanyahu said, addressing the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual conference on Monday. ‘Israeli leaders worry about the survival of their country,’ he stressed.
Netanyahu’s address to the AIPAC conference was the first of two major speeches during this visit to the US. The second, and more controversial, is his speech on Tuesday to Congress, in which he will decry the agreement currently being negotiated between the Obama administration and other world powers with Iran.
Talking to the AIPAC conference, it was important for the prime minister to stress that ‘despite occasional disagreements, the friendship between the US and Israel grows stronger and stronger.” After all, despite the ongoing tensions, Israel has asked the U.S. Congress to add U.S.$317 million to President Barack Obama’s budget request for their nation’s missile-defence programs. This amount is in addition to the $158 million the Pentagon proposed for the fiscal year that starts October 1. The Israeli request would provide first-time production funds for two programmes – David’s Sling and Arrow-3.
Nonetheless, these tensions led Israel to lobby on Capitol Hill instead of through the White House and Pentagon, as is customary.
Bloomberg Business reports that Yair Ramati, the director of Israel’s missile defence organization, visited lawmakers and aides to the congressional defence committees to outline the case for more money and to thank them for past assistance.
The U.S. provides funds for Israel’s missile defenses separately from the U.S. $3.1 billion a year given to Israel in “foreign military financing” to buy weapons. If Israel’s current request for additional funds will be accepted, total known military aid to Israel will reach almost U.S.$ 3.6 billion this year.
On February 22, Israel confirmed it would buy 14 additional F-35s from the United States, a deal financed by the United States and costed at some $3 billion.
US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Tuesday that the current tensions between the U.S. and Israel could last until the end of the Obama administration in 2016.
Talking to the French radio station Europe 1, Blinken said that the Israeli prime minister’s speech could have ‘a bit of a corrosive effect’ on ties.
‘It does not create trust,’ said the diplomat, stressing nevertheless that ‘the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security will not change.’
Also from AIC: 02/23/15 Who is Netanyahu? Why Should Congress Boycott his Speech?