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http://www3.haaretz.co.il/eng/scripts/article.asp?id=63356&mador=1

Monday, December 13, 1999

Israel may seek $20 b. for pullout

By Amos Harel, Ha'aretz Military Correspondent



Israel will ask the United States for nearly $20 billion in defense aid to put a peace treaty with Syria into effect, according to preliminary unofficial assessments made by the defense establishment in the few days since last week's announcement of the resumption of Israeli-Syrian talks.

Defense officials say, however, that Israel will have a very difficult time persuading the United States to grant it such a large amount in aid, even if it is a one-time grant.

The Israeli aid package request will be based on two main points:

- Aid of $10 billion for the process of withdrawing from the Golan Heights and redeploying the IDF.

- Aid to build the "army of peace," involving the purchase of advanced combat and intelligence equipment, which will help the IDF execute major missions after the evacuation of the Golan. This will require about $10 billion (Israel received $3.2 billion from the United States to evacuate Sinai in the peace treaty with Egypt, which in today's terms is between $8 billion and $10 billion).

The view in the IDF is that the army will have no problem evacuating the camps on the Golan Heights within three years (a possible timetable, raised in internal discussions, for carrying out the settlement with Syria) if the needed funds are available.

At the same time, a senior defense source told Ha'aretz that the figures did represent a detailed or official calculation. He said the defense establishment would shortly begin discussions aimed at formulating the principles of the redeployment. "At this stage, no substantive figure has been mentioned," he said.

The assessments concerning the funds that will be required to build the "army of peace" were first worked out in 1995 and presented to the Americans during one of the rounds of talks between Israel and Syria.

About 18 months ago, a delegation led by the director-general of the Defense Ministry at the time, Major General (Res.) Ilan Biran, presented an IDF "modernization plan" to senior American officials. That plan, which referred to several alternative levels of aid, worked out to between $7 billion and $12 billion.

The United States showed an interest in the Israeli ideas, but no official request for aid was made.

In the meantime, the breakthrough with Syria is delaying a final discussion of the IDF's withdrawal plan from Lebanon - but the IDF says that this has now become slightly less urgent, as the renewal of the talks with Syria makes it likely that the pullback will be part of a larger settlement, requiring less preparation than a unilateral withdrawal.

(c) copyright 1999 Ha'aretz. All Rights Reserved





http://www3.haaretz.co.il/eng/scripts/article.asp?id=63646&mador=1&datee=12/19/99

Sunday, December 19, 1999

U.S. aid on Syria peace pact expected to top $20 billion

By Nitzan Horowitz, Ha'aretz Correspondent



WASHINGTON - Despite statements by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright that financial matters were not discussed at last week's Syrian-Israeli summit in Washington and that no promises were made, White House spokesman Joe Lockhart has said that America is prepared to give aid to Israel and Syria in order to help them cover the costs of peace.

"Obviously a stable Middle East living in peace is an interest of ours. I think that America will give aid and assistance and that the international community will join these efforts," said Lockhart. Even Albright said at the end of the summit that "there has never been an agreement in the Middle East which did not include some sort of American aid."

Washington has made a number of estimates of the cost of aid. Dr. Richard Hass of the Brookings Institution said that he expects American aid under an agreement to reach "an 11 figure sum" (more than $10 billion). Other sources estimate that the sum will top $20 billion.

The summit did wonders for the American opinion of Syria - one of President Hafez Assad's central goals in the process. With the summit's end came a reason to be cheerful: the World Bank announced its first project in Syria - an investment of $1 million in an irrigation project. Syria is currently suffering from its worse drought since the 1950s.

Albright has made it clear that any American aid to Syria will be connected to the fight against terrorism. "Both sides understand that terrorist acts will not disrupt the peace process," she said.

National Security Adviser Sandy Berger confirmed that the United States was pressuring Syria to restrain the Hezbollah in South Lebanon. "We have joined in the pressure on Syria to use its influence to constrain the Hezbollah," Berger said.

In preparation for the next round of talks on January 3, the American peace team headed by Dennis Ross will start its preparatory work with both sides.

In Washington they are saying that the talks were serious and conducted in a businesslike manner. "Nobody left or threatened to leave or threw around ultimatums," said an American official. With hindsight, even Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Shara's opening speech at the talks is being seen in a positive light. His talk of a "dialogue of civilization and an honorable competition in various domains - the political, cultural, scientific and economic," is being interpreted by the Americans as a vision of peace the likes of which have never been heard from Syria.


(c) copyright 1999 Ha'aretz. All Rights Reserved


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