White House team to visit Israel for defense assistance negotiations

Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Members of the Obama administration’s national security team will travel to Israel next week to advance talks on a new U.S. defense assistance package to the country.

“A U.S. delegation will be traveling to Jerusalem next week for the next round of talks,” a senior administration official said Wednesday in an e-mail to JTA, confirming a report that first appeared in Haaretz.

Israel and the United States are negotiating a memorandum of understanding that would extend for another 10 years the current aid package, due to expire in 2018 and which averages $3 billion a year in assistance.

Israel reportedly hopes to increase the annual amount to $5 billion, while Obama administration officials are said to be offering closer to $1 billion. The negotiations come as President Barack Obama has pledged to maintain a robust defense relationship with Israel in the wake of a nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers that Israel had adamantly opposed.

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The official said the deal had yet to be finalized.

“While additional work remains to be done, we remain focused on concluding a new MOU that will build on the United States’ historic and enduring commitment to Israel’s security, provide maximum benefit to both Israel and the United States and serve as the foundation for the bilateral security relationship well through the next decade,” the official said.

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