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After Iran feud, Obama and Netanyahu turn to Israel's aid wish list

Monday, November 09, 2015 - 00:58

Hours before his departure to Washington, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he will discuss ''strengthening the security'' of Israel with U.S. President Barack Obama. Subtitled Rough Cut (no reporter narration).

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SUBTITLED ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Hours before he left for a Washington visit on Sunday (November 8), Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his meeting with president Obama would focus on regional issues and "strengthening the security" of Israel. The two long-bickering leaders will meet on Monday for the first time since the signing of the Iran nuclear deal. Their White House talks will be an important step towards a new U.S. military aid package that could burnish the right-wing prime minister's security credentials, now challenged by a wave of Palestinian stabbing and shooting attacks. The meeting, the first between the two leaders in 13 months, could also underpin Obama's assurances that he has Israel's back and help deflect accusations from Republican presidential hopefuls that he and any Democrat successor are less pro-Israel. "The conversation with the president will centre on recent events in the Middle East, including in Syria, possible progress with the Palestinians or at least stabilising the situation with them, and of course strengthening the security of the State of Israel - something that the United States is always committed to - with the State of Israel's qualitative edge being preserved in the face of a changing Middle East and a changing balance of forces," Netanyahu said in a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. "I believe that this meeting is important in order to make clear the continuation of trajectory of American aid for Israel in the coming decade, and will be an additional step in consolidating understanding on this matter," he added. But Israeli-Palestinian peace, a goal that has eluded Obama during his two terms, will likely take a back seat to a reaffirmation of strategic ties - though aides say he will still press the Israeli leader for steps to help keep alive the possibility of a two-state solution for any future negotiations. For Netanyahu, who infuriated the Obama administration by speaking against an emerging agreement with Iran in Congress in March at the invitation of the Republicans, it is now time, in his words, to move past the "disagreement in the family". Seeking a boost in U.S. defense aid, Israel argues that sanctions relief agreed by world powers under the July deal that curbs Iran's nuclear programme will allow Tehran to invest more heavily in its missile development, while redoubling funding for Hezbollah and Hamas guerrilla allies on its borders. Israel now receives $3.1 billion from the United States annually and wants $5 billion per year for 10 years, for a total of $50 billion, Congressional officials have told Reuters. Israeli government spokesmen declined to provide details on the defence aid talks, but one U.S. official predicted the sides would settle for an annual sum of $4 billion to $5 billion.

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After Iran feud, Obama and Netanyahu turn to Israel's aid wish list

Monday, November 09, 2015 - 00:58