U.S. unsure on special military aid packageBy Aluf Benn, Ha'aretz, Monday, October 16, 2000
In discussions between U.S. and Israeli officials on the special military assistance requested for the reinforcement of the Israel Defense Forces, the Americans have made it clear that the sums being considered are far below Israel's original expectations.
"Nothing has been finalized," a senior Israeli source said Saturday, adding that the discussions would continue until Washington makes its final decisions regarding the U.S. foreign aid budget for next year.
Israel has asked the United States for an additional $800 million to next year's $1.98 billion in military aid. The additional funds are intended to compensate the IDF for its withdrawal from southern Lebanon last May and to afford further developments in anti-ballistic missile defenses, following Iran's testing of its long-range Shihab-3 missile.
Following conversations with President Bill Clinton, Prime Minister Ehud Barak believes that the United States will meet the Israeli request, Israeli sources said.
However, during talks in Washington with American officials, the director-general of the Defense Ministry, Amos Yaron, was told that it is too early to tell how large the special assistance package would be. American estimates speak of between $150-200 million.
"The professionals are always a lot less generous than the politicians," a senior Israeli source said.
American officials insisted that the special assistance package, just like the upgrading of strategic relations between the United States and Israel, would depend on developments in the peace process with the Palestinians.