We’ve never been offered more US money: Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister dismisses critics who accuse him of angering America and getting a sour deal

Gulf News

Occupied Jerusalem: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu deflected criticism from the record $38 billion (Dh140 billion) defence package Israel will receive from the US over the next 10 years, saying no better deal could have been won.

Detractors including former Prime Minister and Defence Minister Ehud Barak and former military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin said last week that the 10-year agreement is worse than previous accords because of various restrictions it imposes. They also maintained it could have been more generous if Netanyahu had been more diplomatic in his opposition to the US-led nuclear accord that world powers signed with Iran last year.

“I’ve heard all kinds of noise and disinformation about the agreement,” Netanyahu said in a weekly Cabinet meeting. “I want to make it clear: We’ve never been offered more. We weren’t offered more money, not even a single dollar more, and we weren’t offered special technologies. Those are lies and fabrications from interested parties.”

After initially pushing off talks on defence aid following the nuclear accord, Israel decided not to hold out until after a new American president is elected to approve a package. While the deal increased aid to $3.8 billion annually from about $3 billion, it bars Israel from seeking supplemental funding from Congress as it has repeatedly done. It also requires the Israeli military to use all the money to buy American goods, whereas previous accords allowed 26 per cent to be spent in Israel on domestic defence products.

Barak, writing in a Washington Post column last week, said that due to a 20 per cent increase in the cost of arms over the past decade and the no-supplements clause, Israel is actually getting less money.

Yadlin, speaking in an Israel Army radio interview last week, said the deal was payback for the prime minister’s harsh criticism of the Iran nuclear accord before a joint session of Congress last year.

Netanyahu “gave an uncalled-for speech to Congress, and we’re paying for it,” he said.

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