TEL AVIV – U.S. and Israeli officials are meeting in Washington this week to iron out the final details of a multibillion-dollar defense package for the Jewish state.
As part of the deal, Israel is likely to accept the Obama administration’s demand that any arms purchases will be allocated to U.S.-made weapons and not Israeli ones. However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may still try and contest that stipulation under the reasoning that it may lead to the loss of thousands of defense jobs as well as Israel’s “qualitative military edge” over hostile neighbors in the region such as Iran.
The meetings, led on the Israeli side by Yaakov Nagel, acting head of Israel’s National Security Council, are “aimed at concluding” the Memorandum of Understanding, a senior Obama administration official told the Jerusalem Post on Monday.
The 10-year deal, which at $38 billion will comprise the largest U.S. foreign aid package to date, follows months of intense negotiations.
“We are not going to speculate about potential timelines,” the official said. “Since the talks began, we have held several rounds of serious and productive discussions, which we expect to continue this week.”
According to the official, the Obama administration “remains prepared to sign a new MOU with Israel, which would include both FMF [foreign military financing] funds and an unprecedented multi-year commitment of missile defense funding.”
The previous MOU, which expires in October 2017, did not include missile defense funding.
Both the Obama administration and Netanyahu are eager to see a pact sealed before Obama ends his term. White House critics, particularly from the Republican party, have charged that the Obama administration does not place enough importance on Israel’s security, something the White House vehemently denies.
Although the deal is not likely to be signed during Nagel’s visit this week, both U.S. and Israeli officials are expecting it to be wrapped up within the coming weeks or months.