US mulls upping military aid to Israel

The US administration seeks to soften Israeli objections to arms deals with Arab countries.

The US is considering whether to increase military aid to Israel as compensation for a US arms deal with Saudi Arabia, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told correspondents in Jordan yesterday. Jordan was the first stop of a Middle East tour.

Gates is due in Israel tomorrow for meetings with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni, and Minister of Defense Amir Peretz. This will be his first visit to Israel in seven years. Gates’s predecessor, Donald Rumsfield, made seven visits to the Middle East during his term, but never visited Israel. President Bill Clinton’s Defense Secretary, William Cohen, visited Israel in November 2000.

The media reported two weeks ago that the Bush administration postponed a large sophisticated arms deal with Saudi Arabia and Gulf states because of Israeli objections. The administration temporarily agreed with Israel’s position that the deal was liable to erode its qualitative superiority, but in feverish behind-the-scenes activity in Washington, officials sought to soften the Israeli stance.

Sources in Washington inform ''Globes'' that the Bush administration has ruled out confronting Congress over this issue. Congress must approve the Arab arms deal, and is expected to support Israel’s position. The last thing that President George W. Bush needs now is another source of friction with Democratic-controlled Congress. Gates will therefore come to Jerusalem offering a large carrot with no stick, in the form of increased military aid in exchange for softening its position on the sale of arms to Riyadh.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes.co.il - on April 17, 2007

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2007

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