President Clinton Thursday pledged $100 million to help Israel combat terrorism and initiated an unprecedented intelligence-sharing arrangement.
The CIA and Pentagon will begin work immediately on a program of technical and human intelligence-gathering that will make U.S. intelligence links with Israel deeper than those with any other nation, officials said.
The new counter-terrorism funds, to be spread over two years, are in addition to the $3 billion the United States already grants Israel annually in economic and military assistance. And they are separate from the $22 million in emergency aid for Israel that Clinton authorized 10 days ago in the immediate aftermath of four deadly terrorist bombings.
Clinton announced the new program at a joint news conference here with Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres.
Clinton said intensified surveillance activities and anti-terror operations cannot guarantee that the recent suicide bombings will not be repeated. “But we can do more to identify the sources of support, to try to dry up money, to develop better technical and other means to prevent things from happening,” he said.
The new plan offers no short-term solution to Israel’s anguish and insecurity, he said, which derive from ancient cultural, historical and geographic realities, and that only a change of heart among Israel’s enemies will bring the Jewish state the peace it craves.
The “Summit of Peacemakers” in Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt, a day earlier marked a milestone in Arab acceptance of Israel and recognition of its legitimate security needs, Clinton said. The answer to Israel’s current difficulties, however, lies not in the Palestinian territories or Damascus or Tehran but in the unpredictable passions of men, the president said.
“I wish I had it in my power to reach into the hearts of those young men who have bought some apocalyptic version of Islam and politics that together causes them to strap their bodies with bombs and blow themselves to smithereens and kill innocent children,” Clinton said.
“I wish I could do that. I don’t pretend to be able to do that. But that’s not the question. The question is: Can we improve the capacity of Israel and of the Palestinian Authority to prevent these things from occurring? The answer to that question is yes,” the president continued.
Peres expressed his gratitude for the new U.S. aid and for Clinton’s implicit endorsement in his difficult re-election bid in elections set for late May. “In my eyes, President Clinton is the first world leader that put on the agenda peace in our time as the major goal,” Peres said.
Secretary of State Warren Christopher and CIA Director John Deutch remained in Israel after Clinton departed Thursday night.
They were to meet with their counterparts in the Israeli foreign ministry, the defense agency and Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence service, to seek ways to improve Israel’s capacity to detect and deter terrorist violence.
Clinton sent Congress a request Wednesday night for $50 million in new funding for the Defense Department to be used to enhance Israel’s anti-terrorist capabilities.
The program will include training and technical assistance, advanced bomb-detection devices, X-ray systems to find explosives in packages and on people, robots to handle suspect packages and state-of-the-art thermal and radar sensors.
The United States and Israel will also cooperate on research and development efforts to find new means to prevent future attacks.
A senior administration official said the United States will share information and technology with Israel that it shares with no other nation - including the United States’ closest historical ally, Great Britain.