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News :: Globalization
Bush Pledges Hike in Military Aid to Israel
03 Jul 2007
Bush Pledges Hike in Military Aid to Israel
by dn Sunday, Jul. 01, 2007 at 11:01 PM

Just days after Iranian- and Syrian-backed Hamas fighters imposed full control over the Gaza Strip, U.S. President George W. Bush promised his Israeli counterpart a 10-year military aid hike to help it handle new regional threats.

Posted 06/25/07 14:23

Israel is seeking an additional $50 million to $60 million each year, which would raise total U.S. military grant aid from $2.4 billion in 2008 to nearly $3 billion by 2018. Nicholas Burns, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, will lead bilateral discussions here in July aimed at determining the parameters and conditions of the new aid package, sources here said.
Aside from the Iranian nuclear program, which continued to dominate the bilateral security agenda; the coup in Gaza; and residual instability in Lebanon, Bush was referring to Syrian and Iranian efforts to arm and train Hizbollah-style proxy forces throughout the region, according to U.S. and Israeli sources here.
With Israel sandwiched between what many here call “Hizbollahland” in the north and “Hamastan” in the south, Bush vowed to uphold sanctions against Hamas while improving material and diplomatic support for the newly constituted mainstream Fatah-led government in the West Bank.
“I’m committed to reaching a new 10-year agreement that will give Israel the increased assistance it requires to meet the new threats and challenges it faces,” Bush said following a June 19 White House meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Although Israel’s request to raise aid levels had been on the table for nearly a year, Bush’s public pledge to quickly conclude an agreement reaffirmed the U.S. commitments to preserve Israel’s qualitative military advantage over its neighbors.
Arms Industry in Gaza Sparks Alarm
The Hamas takeover from Fatah is transforming the Gaza Strip into a veritable arms bazaar, with smugglers from the Sinai finding it even easier to circumvent Egypt’s already lax border security, U.S. and Israeli sources here say.
In a June 19 interview, an Israeli security source said Hamas — and to a much lesser extent, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups — has amassed combat capabilities through smuggled arms deliveries.
Israeli security data estimates that 16,000 rifles, 40 tons of explosives, 1,800 anti-tank missiles, second-generation night vision gear, 50 rockets, hundreds of rocket-propelled grenades and 20 anti-air missiles have found their way into Gaza. The source emphasized that data is partial and approximate, but indicates an alarming trend that will only worsen under Hamas rule.
“Everything is of concern, but the anti-air missiles represent a relatively new level of threat being introduced into this theater,” said Uzi Rubin, a former Ministry of Defense official and missile expert here.
In addition to illicit imports, Israeli security sources expect Hamas to expand its own indigenous production of rockets, mortars and even anti-tank missiles, they said.
A March report by Israel’s Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center — a nongovernmental organization associated with the Israeli intelligence community — noted that beyond Qassem rockets, Hamas produces various types of explosive devices. Patterned after the side charges used by Hizbollah in Lebanon, the Hamas explosively formed projectiles, called shawaz, or flame, are more effective than those used by other Palestinian organizations due to “improvements in manufacture and ... [high-grade] explosives ... using Iranian and/or Hizbollah know-how.”
More alarming, the report cited Hamas’ ability to produce anti-tank missiles capable of penetrating up to 200 millimeters of steel from ranges of about 250 meters. The Al-Yasin missile, named after the Hamas spiritual leader killed in an Israeli air strike, is based on the Russian PG-2. The report also cited two other indigenous anti-tank missiles, the al-Bana and Al-Batar, but did not provide performance specifications.
On top of all that, sources here said, are the dozens of vehicles, thousands of mortars and rocket-propelled grenades and the tens of thousands of mostly U.S.-supplied rifles and ammunition seized recently from the formerly Fatah-controlled Palestinian security forces.
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