Netanyahu envoy says U.S. should expand arms aid to Israel
WASHINGTON -- A special envoy of the Israeli prime minister said the United States should expand its arms aid to Israel in light of the increased threats posed by the unstable aftermath of the "Arab Spring" revolutions.
Zalman Shoval, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States and foreign policy advisor to Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party, said in an interview Friday that the instability in Egypt, Libya and Syria suggest that the U.S.-Israel security ties will be “probably more important than ever before.”
He said the United States should consider increasing its emergency inventory of military equipment in Israel, and step up joint military exercises with the Israel Defense Forces to demonstrate to neighboring governments the U.S. commitment to regional stability. Since 1990, the United States has stored military equipment in Israel for use by U.S. armed forces or by the IDF in an emergency.
Shoval said political instability and violence in the region and the advance of Islamist parties show that Americans were generally too optimistic about the uprisings.
American assumptions about the region “will have to be continually reassessed and reexamined” by whichever party wins the White House in the November election, Shoval said.
He said he believes Israel’s treaty with Egypt is now “problematic,” though Egyptian officials have generally said they do not intend to end it. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has made encouraging statements, but he won election by a narrow margin and his government could come under strong pressure from more extreme Islamists, Shoval said.
In his position as special envoy, Shoval serves as a communications channel between the prime minister and the U.S. public and lawmakers.
Although Netanyahu has questioned whether the West’s sanctions would persuade Iran to accept limits on its nuclear program, Shoval said the Israeli government has always supported sanctions.
He said the West should make it clear to Iran that it could eventually face a complete trade embargo, even if Western governments are not ready to take such a drastic step yet.
-- Paul Richter