Occupied Jerusalem: The United States offered Israel on Thursday an unprecedented $30-billion military aid package, bolstering its closest Mideast ally.
The aid deal signed in a ceremony in Jerusalem represents a 25 per cent rise in US military aid to Israel, from a current $2.4 billion each year to $3 billion a year over 10 years.
Nicholas Burns, the US undersecretary of state for political affairs, and Israeli Foreign Minister Director-General Aharon Abramovitz signed the memorandum of
understanding on the assistance at a ceremony in Occupied Jerusalem.
The package was meant in part to offset US plans to offer Saudi Arabia advanced weapons and air systems that would greatly improve the Arab country's air force. Israel has said it has no opposition to the US aid to Saudi Arabia, which comes as the United States strengthens moderate Arabs in facing the growing influence of Iran.
The US administration sees the regional threats to Israel _ namely Iran, and the Hezbollah and Hamas militant groups _ as threats to the United States as well, Burns said.
"We look at this region and we see that a secure and strong Israel is in the interest of the United States," Burns said.
The chief of Israel's central bank, Stanley Fischer, said the US aid is of "critical importance" to Israel, whose defense budget constitutes about 10 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product.
The aid package to Israel was finalized in June in Washington between US President George W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Olmert has said the
increase in military aid to Israel would guarantee its strategic superiority, despite upgrades to Arab countries in the region.