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Arens argues U.S. military aid no longer serves Israel’s interests

Special to WorldTribune.com

JERUSALEM — Israel and the United States have been quietly discussing the prospect of ending military assistance to the Jewish state.

Diplomatic sources said Israel and the United States have broached options of reducing defense aid to the Jewish state. At bilateral meetings, they said, participants from both countries agreed that Israel no longer needed formal U.S. military assistance.

Former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens.  /Miriam Alster/Flash90

Former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens. /Miriam Alster/Flash90

“We love to get it, and our finance minister would probably kill me if he heard me say this, but we could get along without it,” former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens said.

Arens, who was defense minister three times in the 1980s and 1990s, has long advocated Israel’s military independence. He told a parliament caucus on U.S.-Israel relations that Jerusalem could no longer rely on the current $3.2 billion in annual aid as the United States underwent the worst financial crisis since 1929.

“The United States is going through a financial crisis with debts in the trillions of dollars,” Arens said. “We would be unhappy to find that aid is being cut, but we could survive without it.”

Members of the American delegation to the Knesset Caucus on Israel-U.S. Relations agreed. They said U.S. aid, despite the pledges of President Barack Obama, might no longer serve Israel’s interests.

“We may be reaching a point that after discussion of how to assure the security and intelligence cooperation, we can actually phase out the
security assistance,” former U.S. ambassador Dan Kurtzer said.

Kurtzer said U.S. military aid represents only a tiny fraction of
Israel’s gross development product and 1.5 percent of the overall state
budget. He said a more feasible alternative was guaranteeing Israeli access
to U.S. technology.

Israeli parliamentarians on the caucus have been uneasy with the
discussions. They said U.S. military aid prevented Israel from slipping in
the current Middle East arms race, which included Iran and Syria.

“At least in the next 10 years I can see Israel totally dependent on
America for this,” parliamentarian Nachman Shai, a member of the opposition
Labor Party, said.

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