New aid deal elusive as U.S. and Israel defense chiefs meet

(JTA) – U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and his Israeli counterpart, Moshe Ya’alon, agreed at a Pentagon meeting to increase co-operation in the cyber domain, but did not announce agreement on a 10-year military aid package.

Carter “reaffirmed the United States’ unshakable commitment to the security of Israel and the importance of the U.S.-Israel defense relationship” during Monday’s lunch and bilateral meeting, the Pentagon press secretary, Peter Cook, said in a statement issued the same day.

The defense chiefs agreed to “increased co-operation in the cyber domain to enhance each nation’s cyber defense,” the statement said, and also “discussed a number of ways to further strengthen cooperation on a range of issues including regional security” as a follow-up to their October meeting in Washington.

The meeting ended without a formal announcement of a new 10-year military aid package to Israel. The package due to expire in 2018 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 $4 billion.

Members of the Obama administration’s national security team were in Israel in January for talks on the assistance package. U.S. officials reportedly have urged Israel to wrap up the negotiations on the aid package before Obama leaves office, suggesting it will not get a better deal with his successor.

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