In advance of the scheduled meeting between US Presdient Barack Obama and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on November 9, the planning division of the IDF's general staff has prepared a huge shopping basket, in the expectation of the resumption of talks on a new aid package for Israel. Among other things, Israel will ask for regional exclusivity on F-35 stealth aircraft, that will start to be delivered to the Israel Air Force in the next few years, in order to maintain Israel's qualitative military edge (QME). Israel's Ministry of Defense even seeks to expand the annual aid package from the US from its present level of $3.1 billion to $5 billion, a rise of 61%, according to "Defense News".
On the face of it, Israeli exclusivity on the stealth aircraft is already assured, to judge from statements by the US administration about the deal. So, for example, Obama wrote to Jewish congressman Jerrold Nadler, Jewish "Israel is the only nation in the Middle East to which the United States has sold this fifth generation aircraft."
"Defense News" also cites a letter of September 2 from US Secretary of State John Kerry to members of Congress, in which he wrote, "Israel’s first F-35 aircraft will be delivered in 2016, making it the only country in the region with a US fifth-generation fighter aircraft,” and remarks by Vice President Joe Biden at a reception marking Israel's Independence Day in May, “Next year, we’ll deliver to Israel the F-35, our finest, making Israel the only country in the Middle East with a fifth-generation aircraft. No other.” None of these declarations, however, mentions how long Israel will continue to be the only Middle East country with these aircraft.
"Defense News" Israel bureau chief Barbara Opall-Rome says that senior people in Israel's political and defense establishment are now pressing for an undertaking from the Obama administration that Israel's exclusivity on the stealth bombers will be permanent, and that Netanyahu should insist on this in the upcoming talks.
Former senior Israel Air Force officer Amos Yadlin, who now directs the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said that while Israeli exclusivity on the F-35 was desirable, US allies in the Arabian Gulf also sought security assurances from the US in the wake of the nuclear agreement with Iran.
“Balancing the need to preserve and reinforce our QME while, at the same time, answering legitimate concerns of the Gulf Cooperation Council] will be something of a fine art,” Yadlin told "Defense News", “Very careful thought and coordination will be required as we move forward.”
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on September 20, 2015
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