Israel and the US are believed to be holding off-the-record talks over a “compensation” deal that would include the transfer of advanced weaponry to Israel in exchange for quiet acceptance of the emerging Iran nuclear deal.
According to reports in Yediot Ahronoth and Haaretz, the US would increase the number of F-35 fighter planes set to be supplied to Israel and additional batteries for the country’s anti-missile defense systems, including Iron Dome.
“The White House is willing to pay a hefty price to get some quiet from the Israelis at this point,” a senior Obama official told Yediot. “We are surprised the demand has not been made.”
Speaking to the same paper, an anonymous Israeli official expressed his uncertainty over whether Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government will capitulate to the White House’s demands.
“If we come with demands at this point, it would mean that we have given up our objections to the deal, and now it is just a matter of at what price. If Israel believes that the deal is bad for its security, it cannot appear as someone who gave up in the end,” he stated.
The reports indicate that the unofficial talks are centered on enhancing Israel’s defense capabilities. In a previously negotiated deal, the US is to supply Israel with 33 F-35 jets which are to be delivered next year. The total number of aircraft could go up to 50.
Israel has reportedly asked for more Iron Dome batteries, development assistance with the Arrow 3 missile system developed by the US and Israel, and funds to purchase advanced technological systems that would greatly aid in intelligence gathering.
Last week, the US Senate voted in favor of a bill that would require a Congressional review of any nuclear deal US President Barack Obama intends to sign with Iran. Congress would have 30 days to pass a motion in favor of or against the bill.
Earlier this month, the US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee approved $474 million in funding for Israel’s anti-missile defense systems. $41.4 million has been allocated for the short-range Iron Dome system, $165 million for short-range David’s Sling and long-range Arrow 3 systems, and $276.6 million for research and development.
Netanyahu has been a vocal opponent of the emerging nuclear deal being brokered by the US and P5+1. With a June 30 deadline to reach a final agreement, the prime minister has warned that the deal puts Israel’s entire existence at stake while paving the way for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.
“We oppose this deal and we are not the only ones,” Netanyahu said on Sunday. “It is both necessary and possible to achieve a better deal because extremists cannot be allowed to achieve their aims, not in Iran, not in Yemen and not in Jerusalem.”