US missile defense aid to Israel to cut sharply in 2017
Pentagon documents released on Tuesday indicate that the 2017 budget requests of the US Defense Department include a total of $145.8 million for Israeli missile defense programs, a sharp drop in financial support amid a standoff over American military aid.
The aid, meant for Israel's missile interceptor programs including the short-range Iron Dome, medium-range David's Sling and Arrow ballistic missile interceptor, includes far lower figures than those recorded the year before in 2016, reports Reuters.
A total of $103.8 million for Israeli cooperative programs was listed in the 2017 budget request, in a serious cut from $267.7 million in 2016. The funding for Iron Dome also dropped from $55 million in 2016 to $42 million in 2017.
The budget forecast shows that over the next five years the US intends to spend $540 million on cooperative programs, but the funding for Iron Dome is to end after the $42 million in 2017.
Tuesday's revelation comes as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is locked in a standoff with US President Barack Obama's administration over defense aid.
A total of $3 billion in defense aid is given annually, but with those agreements expiring in 2018, Netanyahu has asked for an increase to $5 billion annually, in light of the greater need for security due to the growing Iranian threat after the nuclear deal. It would appear the increased aid request is a sort of condition being placed by Netanyahu for having largely ended his open opposition to the deal.
On Sunday Netanyahu said that if Israeli needs are not met then he will wait to negotiate with the new president elected later this year, although US officials on Monday threatened that he would not get a better deal, urging him to accept Obama's aid package of around $3.7 billion annually.
Speaking about the new budget requests on Tuesday, US Missile Defense Agency director Vice Admiral James Syring said that a "not insignificant" workshare of the cooperative agreement on the Iron Dome system goes to US firms, without giving the specific percentage share.
US defense aid stipulates that Israel use a majority of the American funds on American-made military hardware, causing Israel in many cases to forego purchasing domestic Israeli products that often are cheaper and of a higher quality so as to meet the conditions.
Syring also said the US and Israel are working on a second co-production agreement regarding the David's Sling anti-missile system, but did not say when such a deal might be reached.
He added that Israel has not indicated as to whether it intends to ask for additional funds for missile defense programs, which it did last year after the budget request was sent to Congress. The missile defense director added that it is up to Congress to approve the budget and determine funding.