Speaking after high-level defense meetings between the two governments, the official said that Israel hopes to wrap up negotiations as quickly as possible— and brushed off reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his aides are waiting until after the US presidential elections to close the deal.
Nor, the official added, are Israeli officials conflating talks over a new Memorandum of Understanding— which they hope will amount to $5 billion a year in defense aid— with their concerns that the Obama administration may support international initiatives on Middle East peace at the UN Security Council this fall.
The Pentagon talks went smoothly, and Israel is optimistic a deal will close not within days, but soon, the official said, noting of only a handful of outstanding issues for the two sides to bridge.
The official declined to outline what those outstanding issues are. But they are understood to be line items— not over what Israel’s security needs will be, but over precisely how much Israel requires for each defense program.
The new MOU will incorporate US missile defense aid, which had been left out of the previous defense package set to expire next year. Confirming that missile aid would now be included, the official expressed confidence that a final dollar figure could be settled upon shortly.
In their bilateral meeting, Liberman and US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter “also discussed regional security challenges in the Middle East and areas of mutual defense cooperation,” a Pentagon press secretary said in a readout.
Much of that discussion revolved around Iran, and said that Tehran’s continued destabilizing activities in the region are of mutual concern to both departments, said the Israelis.
Liberman plans to visit Fort Worth, Texas later this week for the roll-out ceremony of the first Israeli F-35 aircraft coming off of Lockheed Martin’s production line. “Israel will be the first foreign partner to receive the F-35, which will play a key role in maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge in the Middle East,” the Pentagon said.