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Israel 'acquires US military gear' as defense budget rises

Jan. 8, 2012 10:31 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 10, 2012 9:56 A.M.)
TEL AVIV, Israel (Ma'an) -- Israel will acquire 2,500 military vehicles and equipment from the US, including gear used in Iraq and Afghanistan, Israeli media reported on Sunday, as the country's premier announced a rise in defense spending.

The military equipment to be transferred according to the preliminary deal will be deducted from United States' annual military aid to Israel, Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported.

Rights groups estimate that the United States gives Israel around $3 billion per year in foreign aid, military and economic grants.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday he will boost defense spending by about 6 percent this year in the face of deepening regional instability, defying calls for cuts as living standards are squeezed.

Israel will spend an additional 3 billion shekels ($780 million) on defense this year. The 2012 budget had been projected at around 50 billion shekels, broadly unchanged from last year.

"Given the abundant challenges and threats surrounding us, it would be a mistake, a big mistake even, to cut the defense budget," Netanyahu told reporters.

Israel faces a strategic map that has been radically redrawn in the past 12 months.

It looks likely to lose regional alliances with Turkey and Egypt and faces a possible entente between Hamas and Fatah, an uprising in neighboring Syria and growing fears over Iran's nuclear program.

Netanyahu said some of the money would come from trimming other government departments but savings from within the military would also play a part.

It will sell assets such army bases, prime real estate in some cases, and he also promised a more efficient use of the budget.

A panel formed last year in response to protests over the cost of living recommended that defense spending be cut by 2.5 billion shekels. That sparked a political fight between Treasury officials and national security chiefs.

Despite their apparent victory, defense officials were circumspect about the changes, saying they might only receive extra funding for this year and that they expected cuts to be imposed later.

Reuters contributed to this report
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