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Obama, Netanyahu eye arms deal to mend ties

Friday, Nov 6, 2015,11:23 IST By Metrovaartha A A A

Washington | Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu will hold a post-row summit Monday, hoping a massive 10 year defense deal will help them move beyond a bitter public fight that shook a decades-old alliance.

After acerbic clashes over the US-backed nuclear deal with Iran, the two leaders will discuss a deal expected to be worth more than USD 30 billion which will include a string of advanced weaponry systems, officials said.

The deal will not be finalized during the summit and would only come into effect after a current accord expires in 2017. But Obama and Netanyahu are expected to discuss commitments that could see Israel get more than the 33 hi-tech F-35 jets already ordered, precision munitions and a chance to buy V-22 Ospreys and other weapons systems designed to ensure Israel’s military edge over its neighbors.

The weapons said to be under discussion reflect the prominence of Iran in US and Israeli military thinking. The F-35 is the only aircraft able to counter the S-300 surface-to-air missile system that Russia has suggested it may sell to Tehran. Officials said Israel may also seek to ensure that other US allies in the region do not get the F-35.

The White House has so far rebuffed Arab Gulf states’ requests to buy the planes. But while Israel has been offered some bunker-busting bombs, divisions over how to handle Tehran may put the sale of 30,000 pound Massive Ordnance Penetrators that could be used to target Iranian nuclear sites off the table.

This is not something that has been raised in the context of the MoU discussions, said senior Obama national security aide Ben Rhodes referring to the deal, known formally as a memorandum of understanding.

Military experts say Israel’s lack of bunker busting capability has limited Netanyahu’s ability to launch a unilateral strike against Iran, effectively giving Washington a veto over military action.

The visit, Rhodes said, would be an opportunity to discuss and hear from Israel its assessment of its security challenges and the related security needs it has whether it is something like the F-35 or a variety of others.

During his last trip to Washington in March, the Israeli prime minister found the door of the White House slammed firmly shut, with Obama refusing to meet him.

The White House had been infuriated by Netanyahu’s decision to appear in Congress at Republicans’ invitation and urge US lawmakers to vote against a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

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