World Bulletin / News Desk
U.S. defence aid to Israel is likely to increase after 2017, sources on both sides said on Thursday, seeing a possible link to Washington's efforts to assuage its ally's fears over nuclear diplomacy with Iran.
A current package worth $3 billion a year expires in 2017. A U.S. official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said negotiators were close to a new deal that would bring annual payouts to $3.6-$3.7 billion on average.
An Israeli official, who also declined to be named, put the expected aid at between $3.5 billion and $4 billion.
"They (the United States) are trying to douse the fires after our flare-up about the Iran deal," the official added, referring to curbs being negotiated on Tehran's disputed nuclear programme which Israel has condemned as insufficient.
In Washington, the Pentagon had no immediate comment. A spokesman for Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon, asked about the U.S. aid figures, said: "This is not a matter that has been discussed recently." He did not elaborate.
The previous U.S. administration signed a 10-year deal with Israel in 2007 giving it $30 billion, most of which must be spent on American military products. Washington has earmarked hundreds of millions more dollars for Israeli missile defences.
A year ago, with talks about the new aid package under way, a U.S. official said Israel was seeking a significant increase but that the Obama administration, beset by domestic cost-cutting, was unlikely to agree beyond adjusting for inflation.
Since then, the United States and five other world powers have pressed ahead with the Iran negotiations, setting a June 30 deadline for a final accord. Tehran denies seeking nuclear weapons. The talks have been dogged by disputes about the degree to which projects with bomb-making potential should be capped.
Such aid to Gulf Arabs has often ushered in increases in aid to Israel, whose military "qualitative edge" in the region successive U.S. administrations have pledged to preserve.
Asked if the expected hike in defence grants to Israel was linked to Washington's recent dealings with Iran and the Gulf Arab states, the U.S. official said: "Could be."
Rescue team has not ruled out possibility of locating more bodies
Israeli officials say Gaza economy was “like from zero to below zero”
Salim al-Jubouri also stresses need to support war-ravaged Nineveh province in post-ISIL era
Press Secretary Sarah Sanders insisted that Trump said "I'd," not "I" as the newspaper reported.
Palestinian minister says Israeli government violates Christian, Muslim places of worship
Five people are still missing after the mudslides, according to an update on the County of Santa Barbara's website, which warned people to "anticipate the numbers of missing persons to fluctuate significantly."
Haider al-Abadi forms Victory Coalition and calls on political groups to join his ‘supra-sectarian national coalition’
‘The U.S. Pacific Command has detected no ballistic missile threat to Hawaii,’ says Pentagon
Palestine Liberation Organization calls for the assurance of the establishment of the Palestinian state
Antonio Guterres says UN supports Colombian peace process
Speculation about Haley's presidential ambitious has picked up since she defended Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, staring down friends and foes alike at the world body.
"The G7 serves well as a proving or testing ground for discussions that could eventually go into the G20 or the United Nations or international financial institutions," Peter Boehm, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's G7 representative, said in an interview with AFP.
Delegates briefed by terrorist group about demands for federal system in Syria, local sources say
Latest sign of growing unrest hits country reeling from recession, declining oil prices, U.S. sanctions