U.S.-Israel talks on enhancing security assistance resume
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U.S.-Israel talks on enhancing security assistance resume

WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S.-Israel talks on defense assistance to Israel have resumed now that the Iran nuclear deal is in place, Israel’s ambassador to Washington said.

Addressing American-Israelis, Ron Dermer also took swipes at claims by U.S. officials that settlement building helped spur the recent spate of attacks on Israelis.

Talks “on hold for some time resumed this past week in Washington,” Dermer said Saturday evening, addressing the annual Israeli American Council Washington conference.

Israel and the United States are due to extend and increase the $3 billion a year in defense assistance arrangement set to expire in 2018, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspended talks on such assistance during congressional review of the Iran nuclear deal, not wanting to appear to endorse the deal by accepting American assistance.

Congress did not reject the deal.

Dermer said the sides would work together on confronting Iran in the region in the wake of the sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal reached between Iran and six major powers. He noted that Moshe Yaalon, the Israeli defense minister, would be in Washington later this month to discuss assistance and that it would be on the agenda when Netanyahu and President Barack Obama meet next month in Washington. Additionally, Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, will be in Israel this week.

Dermer said that Netanyahu was right to argue against the deal in a March speech to Congress that frayed ties with the Obama administration and with congressional Democrats.

“In making that case, the prime minister of Israel exercised both his right and responsibility to speak, a right long denied the Jewish people,” Dermer said. “I’m proud of what my prime minister has done in representing Israel in the world.”

Dermer suggested that the deal remained flawed and dangerous.

“I have little doubt that history will be very kind in judging my prime minister’s actions at this time,” he said.

Dermer also alluded to recent remarks by Secretary of State John Kerry, who said that the recent intensification of deadly attacks by Palestinians on Israelis were spurred in part by settlement building.

“The idea that renewing the peace process or withdrawing from the territories will somehow stop terrorism is a fiction,” he said.

Spokesmen for the Obama administration have more recently condemned the attacks on Israelis without equivocation.

Instead, Dermer blamed what he called incitement by Palestinian leaders who claim that Israel plans to remove mosques from the Temple Mount-Harasm al Sharif compound in Jerusalem, a sight holy both to Jews and Muslims.

“The match is not the settlements, it’s not the lack of a peace process, the match is the lie that Israel was trying to harm the Al-Aqsa mosque,” he said.

Dermer separately this week told CNN that Kerry and Netanyahu would meet next week in Germany to discuss the intensification of violence.