US Vice President Joe Biden will start his five-day Middle East tour in Israel Tuesday, March 8, by presenting the multibillion financial and defense aid package promised by the Obama administration to redress the imbalance in Israeli security generated by the nuclear deal with Iran. DEBKAfile’s sources report that Prime Minister’s Binyamin Netanyahu was also quietly tipped from Biden’s close circle that he may decide to use the handover of this package as the opening shot of his run for the Democratic presidential nomination, despite past repudiations.
Our sources in Jerusalem reveal that Israeli officials in charge of staging the Biden visit were directed to handle the visitor to all intents and purposes as a candidate running for election to the White House on Nov. 4.
His presentation of an impressive US assistance program is meant to convey President Barack Obama’s desire to straighten out his rocky relations with Netanyahu before his departure, while also portraying his vice president to American Jews as a successor who will continue to look after Israel’s security interests.
The two governments have been negotiating for months on the size of US military assistance committed by Washington for preserving Israel’s qualitative military and security edge in the next decade, in the course of which Iran and the Islamic Republic’ will substantially upgrade the military capabilities of its armed forces and radical Revolutionary Guards Corps.
In recent talks between US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Israel put in a bid for $50 billion to be spread over 10 years, so raising the US military aid package for Israel from $3.5 bn to $5 bn a year. The Americans said this sum required further negotiation.
According to sources close to the prime minister, the vice president will be bringing the administration’s compromise proposal of between $40 billion and $50 billion, to be spread out over 13-15 years. He will also throw in to the deal US weaponry and items of cutting-edge military technology withheld hitherto from the IDF.
That list was agreed last week when Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the US Chiefs of Staff sat down in Tel Aviv with IDF chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkot and his top officers.
As for Biden’s intentions, it should be noted that, although in February, he denied intending to contest the presidential nomination, he surprised political observers when, on Feb. 19, he sharply criticized the campaigns run by Democratic hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders. He accused them of “doom and gloom” and not doing enough to combat the idea that the country is in decline.