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Netanyahu won’t ask U.S. to exempt aid to Israel in defense cuts

JTA

June 21, 2013 | 10:12 am

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on June 19. Photo by Baz Ratner/Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on June 19. Photo by Baz Ratner/Reuters

Israel will not object to a planned five-percent cut in the annual military aid package from the United States, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly said.

Under the sequester, the across-the-board cuts mandated by 2011 legislation, Washington is set to cut more than $150 million from the annual $3.1 billion package to Israel.

According to the Maariv daily, Netanyahu instructed Israeli officials in Washington not to ask the U.S. government for an exception from cuts.

“Israel did not seek an exception,” Maariv quoted Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, as saying. “We are willing to share in the burden.”

The planned cuts will likely affect Israel’s ability to purchase advanced F-35 stealth fighters, according to the report, 19 of which were supposed to be delivered in 2016.

Because of budgetary cuts in Washington, the Pentagon has slashed production of the F-35s, from 2,500 to 1,200 planes, thereby making each fighter more expensive.

The cuts are also expected to affect future joint military exercises between the two countries, Maariv reported.

Apparently unaffected is some $220 million President Obama has budgeted for the short-range Iron Dome missile defense system, which Israel claims successfully repelled more than 90 percent of rockets launched by Hamas in last November’s Gaza Strip war.

Appropriators in the U.S. House of Representatives have approved that sum, as well as an increase to $270 million of Obama’s $173 million request for missile defense cooperation programs separate from Iron Dome.

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