Signing of Memorandum of Understanding between Israel and the United States
(August 16, 2007)
A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed by Israel and the United States at a ceremony today at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The MOU outlines defense aid to be provided to Israel by the Americans to the tune of $30 billion in the next decade.
Representing the United States at the ceremony were Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns and US Ambassador to Israel Richard Jones. On the Israeli side, Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fisher, Director General of the Foreign Ministry Aaron Abramovich, Director General of the Ministry of Defense Pinchas Buchris and Israel's Ambassador to the United States, Salai Meridor, attended.
Transcript of ceremony and press conference afterwards:
Master of Ceremonies:
The Governor of the Bank of Israel, Stanley Fisher:
We are delighted to be able to welcome the US delegation to this meeting, during which the Memorandum of Understanding between the Israeli and the American Governments, on the provision of 30 billion dollars of financing for Israel’s military needs, will be signed.
The aid itself is of critical importance; its reflection of the United State’s unswerving support is no less important. It expresses a great deal of confidence in Israel to continue its very important defense and economic policies, in a very difficult environment.
If I may add a personal word to the American delegation – It has been a great pleasure, Undersecretary Burns, to be able to have you as our counterpart for these negotiations. It was never at any stage a question about the support of the United States for Israel, its support for the provision of financial assistance on a very significant scale, and you handled these negotiations in a way which made us appreciate even more the extraordinary relationship between our countries.
I am here to represent President Bush, Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, and also my friend here, Ambassador Dick Jones, to say how pleased we are that the United States can make this long-term investment in Israel’s security. Of a thirty-billion-dollar figure of defense assistance over ten years; that is a major contribution of American assistance, and we do it first and foremost because the United States has an abiding interest in the security of Israel.
Secondly, I would like to say that the United States of course understands that Israel lives in an increasingly dangerous region and, when Secretary Rice made her statement two weeks ago announcing that we would commit to this level of military assistance for Israel, she noted the fact that the United States and Israel and many of our friends in the Arab world face a situation where Iran is resurgent, where Iran is seeking a nuclear weapons capability, where it is seeking to expand its conventional power in the Middle East, and where there is now a nexus of cooperation among Iran and Syria, Hizbullah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other groups who are responsible for the conflicts in this region, Iran and Syria in particular, funding and arming those groups that are terrorist in nature. In every part of the Middle East, they are the reason why there is violence – in their assistance to Hamas, Iran’s assistance to Hamas, and the assistance to the Hizbullah and the destabilizing impact that the Hizbullah has in Lebanon, in Iran’s assistance to the Shiite militant group in Iraq, and the adverse consequences that has had for our country.
And, of course, our objective as a country and our specific objective as a government, is to contribute to that peace, a peace between Israel and the Palestinian people; the creation of an independent Palestinian state, willing to live side by side in peace with Israel. And a general peace in the region that has eluded the Israel people for fifty-nine years, but which we hope is the destiny of the Israeli people, as well as the Arab peoples of the region, and our policy in this entire region is dedicated to that final objective.
Master of Ceremonies:
One, regarding the paper, the document that you have just signed. Are there any restrictions, are there any stipulations that are attached to that document that are either an annex or something that is not being articulated here in this page?
And the other one would be just a regional question, if you will. What are the expectations from the regional meeting that the President initiated, and do you have a confirmation that Saudi Arabia is expected to take part in that meeting, and if so, at what level?
Undersecretary Burns: Thank you very much; I hope that you can hear me.
And, the second question – I can only say that I just arrived here yesterday, but, after having spent the last week or so in Washington – and Secretary Rice has focused very much on what the President of the United States has asked her to do, and that is to convene a meeting in the United States in the autumn – we have not yet set the date for that meeting, but the meeting is designed to propel forward a future peace between Israel and the Palestinian people. I will be, in the course of my trip this week, of course, meeting with the leaders of the Palestinian leadership. We do that, because we have great faith in them and look forward to working with them, as well as to other countries in this region to support this process. To see a quickening of that process and to see a deeper commitment by everyone involved to make progress. And in that respect, I think that when Secretary Rice and Secretary Gates were in the region just two weeks ago, I think she spoke to the press after her meeting with the King of Saudi Arabia and with Prince Saud, and I will let Secretary Rice’s comments stand for the record; I could not possibly improve on them.
Q: I would like to ask Undersecretary Burns, given the regional aspect of this arms assistance deal, how important was the size of this investment in Israel to getting the support of the American Congress?
Undersecretary Burns: Of course, we worked on this agreement with the Israel Government over the last six months. Governor Fisher led a delegation of nearly everybody in this group, and many people in the front row, to Washington back in March, February and March, and we had extensive conversations with the Israeli Government at that time. In fact, some very impressive presentations were made by the Israeli military leadership as well as the civilian leadership, about their long-term projection of the threats to Israel and how Israel had to prepare for those threats. And that was a very important session for us. Because it gave us, over the course of two days, many, many hours of conversation, a very specific sense of what Israel was facing and how Israel would prepare itself to maintain the peace. That also led us to have a series of conversations with the Congressional leadership, about what was the right level of support of the United States and we did take care to talk to many members of the Congress about this. In fact, I have just phoned, and I do not think that he would mind me saying this, I just phoned Chairman Tom Lantos on the way over to this meeting to say that we would be signing this agreement and I hope very much that it will have the support of the Congress; and I think we will, for this level of assistance to Israel.
We have been the main supporter of Israeli security for many decades, but there is no question from an American point of view that the Middle East is a more dangerous region than it was, even than it was ten or twenty years ago. And Israel is facing a greater threat. It is immediate and it is also long term. The United States faces many of the same threats from the same organizations and countries that Israel does, and so we felt that this was the right level of assistance, and I hope very much and I am confident that we will receive a lot of support in Congress for this. I will let the members speak for themselves, and the leadership speak for itself, but I am confident of that, and I think that many members of Congress understand that the United States has friends, also, in the Arab world; they are of long standing. And these are countries that will be vital to building a peace between Israel and the Arab countries. And so our investment in their long-term security is also important and it is also a part of this general context that we live in, that we deal with, and the general policy that the United States is putting forward for our longer-term interest in the Middle East.
Q: Gentleman, I wonder if you can elaborate – from what has been stated on both sides during the past two weeks, this deal is supposed to preserve Israel's qualitative edge. To the best of my knowledge, nothing has been published about the hardware that is going to be supplied to Israel or what is going to be supplied to Saudi Arabia or to Egypt.
I do not think at this point that there is much point in going into the details, particularly of agreements that the United States has not signed with other countries. In terms of Israelis own requests, as far as I am aware at this stage, there have been discussions of the types of systems that would be involved but I am unaware of specific agreements on future specific systems that will be involved.
Undersecretary Burns: I would be happy to try and answer this question. Every American president since President Reagan - I believe that President Reagan was the first to articulate this – believed that the United States should be committed to Israel’s qualitative military edge. As we went through the deliberations with the Israeli colleagues over the last six months, that was a major consideration, and I think that it is self-evident why that should be so. We are not in a position today to announce specific elements of long-term Israeli acquisitions of American technology, but that will be announced in due course, when we begin, when we on the American side begin to notify the Congress as we must, under our constitutional system. But needless to say, given Israel’s predicament of living in a region that is very violent and unstable, its military edge is of interest to our country and we have committed to that, and I think that principle runs through everything that we have done and the agreement that we have signed today.
Q: Undersecretary Burns, you called this investment of thirty billion dollars an investment in peace. But, by guaranteeing this money for ten years, are you not taking away the vital leverage of the European Community that the United States could have to encourage Israel and the Palestinians towards some kind of peace agreement in the future; and what happens if a different Government is elected in Israel, perhaps a more hawkish Government. Is there a possibility that, if Israel starts to do things that the United States does not like, you could turn off the taps, or is it fixed?
Undersecretary Burns: I respectfully take issue with the logic behind your question. We are a friend of Israel. We are committed to Israel, we are also a friend to many of the Arab countries in this region and we are committed to their security. And what was announced, what Secretary of State Rice announced two weeks ago, together with Secretary Gates, was a long-term military commitment to Israel, to Egypt and to the members of the Gulf cooperation council, the countries that I listed in my opening remarks. But the long-term logic is, somehow you strengthen a country by undermining it. I do not understand that logic, and the only way we can achieve peace in the Middle East is to have strength, and the democratic country in this region, Israel, deserves continued and consistent military support from its partner and friend, the United States. The Arab countries in the region that are willing to stand up for peace and have a long-term association with the United States also deserve the certainty of knowing that we are going to be there for them.
So I would suggest the reverse of your question. I think that history in many different areas would indicate that the only way to peace is to show countries like Iran and Syria that the United States will remain the primary factor of stability in this region. That our own presence, political and military is going to continue and that we are going to stand up for our friends; that is the best way to make peace. And whether it is the peace breakthrough made here, in 1977 and in 1978 and in 1979, or whether those made in the mid 1990’s, they were all made because the United States did not forsake Israel and the United States paid attention to Israeli security, as well as those of our Arab friends.
Q: Mr. Burns, is this understanding made with the proposed sale to the Saudis, and during your discussions here are you discussing with the Israelis the Saudi deal, and hearing their reservations about the deal?
Israel Bank Governor Stanley Fisher: The Prime Minister has made the position of the Israeli Government clear on this issue, which is to show understanding of the need for the United States to support its allies in the Gulf, and of course, the relationship with Egypt is an ongoing annual one. So, I do not think that there is – that statement speaks for itself.
Q: Undersecretary Burns, has the United States conditioned all of this financial aid on any Israeli concessions towards the Palestinians, maybe even previous commitments by the Israeli Government to dismantle illegal outposts – that is just one example? Has the United States demanded any moves towards the Palestinians from the Israeli Government?
Q: Mr. Burns I wonder if you can confirm that Israel is the only recipient of US military aid that is allowed to divert that aid, I believe twenty-three point six per cent, towards its domestic arms industry and, if that is the case, given an understanding that this is a fixed amount, have you encountered or do you foresee any opposition from the United States arms industry, which is essentially a foreign competitor.
Undersecretary Burns: I am just – I want to give a good answer to your question – you know that, as part of this agreement, over the course of ten years, a certain percentage of the funds, slightly over a quarter, can be used by the State of Israel for purchases within Israel and that is – we have had this agreement with Israel for a long time, but I am just looking for assistance, to my colleagues. I am informed that this is a unique agreement, but I just wanted to be able to establish that, because we have a relationship with a lot of countries around the world.
Thank you everyone for coming.
Source: Israeli Foreign Ministry