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“U.S. Official: More U.S. Aid will Help Israel Make 'Tough' Decisions”
by Haaretz Service - Natasha Mozgovaya   
July 17th, 2010

U.S. is confident that Iron Dome will provide improved defense for the people of Israel, says assistant secretary of state.

An expanded security aid package would allow Israel to reach tough decisions in its peace talks with the Palestinians, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Andrew J. Shapiro said Friday, adding that Washington planned to provide Israel with its most extensive security aid package in history.

Speaking at the Brookings Saban Center for Middle East Policy in Washington D.C., the assistant secretary spoke of the administration's intention to enhance the annual security aid it provides Israel, saying that in "2010, the administration requested [from Congress] $2.775 billion in security assistance funding specifically for Israel, the largest such request in U.S. history."

Shapiro linked the expanded aid package with the possibility of furthering peace talks with the Palestinian Authority, saying that it was the "hope that the administration’s expanded commitment to Israel’s security will advance the process by helping the Israeli people seize this opportunity and take the tough decisions necessary for a comprehensive peace."

"This Administration believes that pursuing peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and Israel and its neighbors can be a mutually reinforcing process," the assistant secretary said, adding that it was "more essential than ever to make progress on all tracks."

Shapiro reiterated what he called the U.S. commitment to Israel's security, saying that "Israel’s right to exist, and to defend itself, is not questionable. No lasting peace will be possible unless that fact is accepted."

"Israel is a vital ally and a cornerstone of our regional security commitments," Shapiro added, saying that "U.S. support for Israel’s security is much more than a simple act of friendship."

"We are fully committed to Israel’s security because it enhances our own national security and because it helps Israel to take the steps necessary for peace," the assistant secretary said.

Referring to the security threats which brought the administration to expand its aid package, Shapiro said,  "Today Israel is facing some of the toughest challenges in its history," adding that the administration was "particularly focused on Israel’s security precisely because of the increasingly complex and severe threats that it faces in the region."

"While the most grave, the Iranian nuclear program is one of many serious security threats in the region," Shapiro said at the Saban Center, saying that "Iran and Syria both pose significant conventional challenges."

Intersecting with the threats posed by those countries, the assistant secretary said, were "the asymmetrical threats posed by Hezbollah and Hamas, whose rockets indiscriminately target Israeli population centers, and whose extensive arms smuggling operations, many of which originate in Tehran and Damascus, weaken regional security and disrupt efforts to establish lasting peace between Israel and its neighbors."

Shapiro also detailed the ways in which the United States planned to bolster Israel's security, which included the sale of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, joint training exercises, research and development, and the funding of the Iron Dome missile defense system, developed to answer the threat of short to medium ranged rockets being fired by both Hamas and Hezbollah.

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