US reportedly to offer Israel 'unprecedented' arms deal

The US is planning to offer Israel a wide-ranging arms deal to ease anger in Jerusalem over the Iranian nuclear agreement, according to Israeli media reports.

The landmark nuclear deal, signed last week in Vienna after painstaking negotiations between six world powers, will see Tehran's nuclear capabilities restricted in return for the lifting of crippling international sanctions on the Islamic Republic's economy.

The accord raised the ire of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has opposed Iran's nuclear programme for almost three decades, calling the latest agreement a "historic mistake" which allows Iran a "sure path to nuclear weapons".

In order to ease Israeli concerns over the deal, Washington is now considering signing off on one of the biggest deals in the two nations' history, an arms deal which Israel's Channel 2 called "unprecedented" if it comes to fruition.

The Israeli television channel reported that the Obama administration has already briefed top Israeli officials on the potential deal, which would include advanced weaponry and technology that the Israeli military does not already own.

Obama's National Security Adviser Susan Rice reportedly called former Israeli President Shimon Peres on Saturday to inform him that Washington was prepared to offer the major arms package. The pair exchanged differing views on the Iran deal, with Peres unhappy that Iran would receive 24-days notice before inspections of their programme.

Reuven Ben Shalom, a retired IDF Lieutenant-Colonel and former head of the North American department at the IDF's planning branch, where he managed the US-Israel military relations at the strategic level, says that military cooperation between Washington and Jerusalem is stronger than ever and that such a deal is likely being touted to appease the Israeli public.

"I think sometimes there are things that are done for the public eye or worded in a specific way for the public," he says. "I say this because, throughout the years, there has always been strong military support from the US, keeping Israel as the strongest military in the Middle East."

"I have no concern that it would be reduced even though Obama and Netanyahu's relations are horrible," he adds. "However, it would not surprise me if we see a specific package getting that [unprecedented] label, getting a little more attention which says 'you see, we are helping you out'."

In reaction to a potential compensation package following the Iran deal, Netanyahu continued to attack the accord on ABC's This Week programme on Sunday and dismissed any potential US compensation as it would give the message that Israel accepts the deal.

"Everybody talks about compensating Israel. If this deal is supposed to make Israel and its Arab neighbours safer, why should we need to be compensated with anything?" Netanyahu asked. "And how can you compensate my country against a terrorist regime that is sworn to our destruction and going to get a path to nuclear bombs?"

It was also reported last week that Netanyahu rejected the offer of discussions to upgrade defence cooperation with Washington in the aftermath of the deal, US Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman told the Times of Israel. "The prime minister was not ready to have that discussion yet," she said.

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter arrived in Israel yesterday in a bid to allay Israeli fears about Washington's commitment to the country's security. Carter is also set to visit two other key allies in the region, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, to discuss the Iran deal and other security issues.