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Tuesday, May 18, 2010     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

White House okays missile defense aid for Israel

TEL AVIV — Israel, denied offensive weapons since January 2009, has sought aid from the United States for the development and procurement of defensive systems.


Officials said the Israeli Defense Ministry has been discussing a range of projects that would enable Israel to withstand missile and rocket attacks by Iran and its proxies. They said the plan called for a significant increase in U.S. aid for missile and rocket defense over the next three years.

"Missile defense allows for efforts to reach peaceful resolutions," U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense Policy Frank Rose said.

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The latest Israeli missile defense request comes amid a policy by the Obama administration to deny offensive weapons to the Jewish state. Over the last 16 months, Obama has either rejected or withheld approval for Israeli procurement or upgrades of such platforms as attack helicopters. Israel has received $2.55 billion in defense aid in 2010.

Officials said the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama has approved $205 million for the Israeli procurement of at least 10 Iron Dome batteries. They said the U.S. assistance for the Israeli-origin Iron Dome short-range missile and rocket defense system would be secured over the next few weeks in talks by visiting Israeli Defense Ministry director-general Udi Shani.

"The United States and our ally Israel share many of the same security challenges, from combating terrorism to confronting the threat posed by Iran's nuclear-weapons program," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said on May 13. "The president recognizes the threat missiles and rockets fired by Hamas and Hizbullah pose to Israelis."

In April, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak discussed missile and rocket defense with the administration. Officials said Barak asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates for U.S. help to bolster the Jewish state's multi-layered rocket and defense system with funds for development and procurement.

"Not a week goes by when there is no security-related interaction [between Israel and the United States]," Israeli Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz said.

One proposal stipulated U.S. funding for Israel to produce and procure Iron Dome, scheduled for initial deployment in mid-2010. The Israeli Finance Ministry has allocated funding for two Iron Dome systems, but the military has set a requirement for another dozen batteries for protection of northern and southern Israel from Hamas and Hizbullah missiles and rockets.

"This funding will expand what they can produce and deploy, and how quickly they're able to do it," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said on May 13.

The Pentagon has been lobbied by at least one U.S. defense major for joint production of Iron Dome. The U.S. company was identified as Raytheon, the leading U.S. missile producer and Israel's partner in the David's Sling tactical missile defense system.

"The ideal would be a project that would produce Iron Dome for both the U.S. and Israeli militaries, with the prospect of upgrades, but the Americans are not interested in acquiring Iron Dome," the official said.

In April 2010, the administration approved the launch of the first major military project for Israel under Obama. The Pentagon awarded Lockheed Martin a $98 million contract for one C-130J air transport to Israel. The Israeli request was approved by then-President George W. Bush in mid-2008.

On May 17, the Pentagon awarded its second defense contract for Israel under the Obama administration. The $20 million contract called for an engine upgrade of an Israeli armored personnel carrier that had been deployed in the 2009 war in the Gaza Strip.

"This [U.S. refusal to supply weapons to Israel] will become a major problem over the next few months," another official said.

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