Israel seeks US aid in thwarting Gaza tunnels

Gaza tunnels

Israeli developed technology to detect Hamas tunnels could be used to uncover drug smuggling tunnels on the US-Mexico border.

Israel is seeking a multi-year financing package from the US approved by the US Congress last December, the "Defense News" weekly today reported.

A senior Ministry of Defense official told the periodical that Israel needed additional US aid in order to operate a multi-layer system for detecting and destroying tunnels penetrating from Gaza into Israeli territory. Minister of Defense Moshe Ya'alon said earlier, "The search for tunnels is at the top of our priority list and we will not spare any efforts.

The Israeli source noted that the Ministry of Defense had invested over $60 million over the past five years in developing technologies to overcome the tunnels threat. Israel hopes to receive at least double this amount in the coming two years. US aid will enable Israel to develop additional technologies and to finance the transition from the development of a prototype to a trial and production of operational systems.

Last December, the US Congress allocated $40 million for joint Israeli-US development of technology for detecting and destroying tunnels. Israel hopes to receive $40 million in both the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years.

Israeli intelligence estimates that Hamas is spending $3 million on each tunnel it digs, despite its financial plight and the lack of resources in the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, these assessments hold that Hamas is not only rebuilding and improving the tunnels damaged or destroyed in Operation Protective Edge in 2014, but is consistently investing in new offensive capabilities in the air, sea, and on land.

IDF spokesman and Foreign Press Branch head Peter Lerner said, "The ugly truth is that Hamas continues to invest millions of dollars to build tunnels of terror and death. The tunnel uncovered in Israel demonstrates once more Hamas warped priorities and continued commitment and investment in tools and violence.

There is almost no doubt that an Israeli request for additional aid for the development of anti-tunnel technologies will win strong support in Congress. Since the project is a joint one, the US can use these technologies against tunnels on its border with Mexico, through which tons of drugs have been smuggled into the US for years.

At the same time, senior legislators in the US Senate and House of Representatives from both parties are now calling to increase by several times over the amount requested by the Obama administration in the 2017 fiscal year for Israel's anti-missile defense systems. This aid is separate from the $3.1 billion in regular annual US aid to Israel during the next fiscal year.

The legislators did not mention the exact amount they wanted to add to the administration's original request, but US Missile Defense Agency director Vice Admiral James Syring yesterday said at a Congressional hearing that the administration was seeking to budget less than $150 million for Israel's missile programs, but that the legislators wanted to increase the package "to almost $600 million." Such increases, called plus-ups in legislative parlance, have already become a tradition. Every year, Congress boosts the amount requested by the White House for the Israeli anti-missile programs. Over the past decade, Congress allocated $1.9 billion more than the aggregate amount of the administration's original requests.

According to "Defense News," Syring said that the amount Israel is expected to obtain in the 2017 fiscal year will be more than it is receiving in the current fiscal year. The White House sought to give Israel $150 million in 2016, but the final package approved by Congress totaled $488 million. Congress also substantially increased the amount granted for Israel's anti-missile programs (Arrow, Arrow 3, David's Sling, and Iron Dome) in 2015.

Syring stated that increased financing for Israeli programs would be directly beneficial to US defense industries. He added that one of the elements of the US-Israeli partnership, especially Iron Dome, is an agreement for joint production of the system. In the 2015 fiscal year, 55% of the work on Iron Dome was conducted in the US. According to Syring, the US and Israel were currently negotiating to jointly produce David's Sling, including the technological components of the system.

The legislators sponsoring the increased aid for the anti-missile programs said that there was a strong connection between Israel's national security and that of the US, and that the innovative technologies in the Israeli systems were of great significance for Washington. The US regards Israeli anti-missile defense programs as a trial by fire for technologies that the US is likely to use, US House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee member Rep. Bradley Sherman (Dem.) said, adding, I cant tell you a dollar figure, but there is very strong support for Iron Dome, Davids Sling, the Arrow, the whole thing, Sherman said."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on April 19, 2016

Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2016

Gaza tunnels
Gaza tunnels
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