JERUSALEM -- The United States offered Israel an unprecedented $30 billion military aid package yesterday, bolstering its closest Mideast ally.
The aid deal represents a 25 percent rise in US military aid to Israel, from a current $2.4 billion each year to $3 billion a year over 10 years.
Nicholas Burns, the US undersecretary of state for political affairs, and Foreign Minister Director-General Aharon Abramovitz of Israel signed the memorandum of understanding on the assistance at a ceremony in Jerusalem.
The package was meant in part to offset US plans to offer Saudi Arabia advanced weapons and air systems that would greatly improve the Arab country's air force. Israel has said it has no opposition to the US aid to Saudi Arabia.
Burns said regional threats to Israel -- from Iran and the Hezbollah and Hamas militant groups -- also threaten the United States.
"We look at this region and we see that a secure and strong Israel is in the interest of the United States," Burns said.
The chief of Israel's central bank, Stanley Fischer, said the US aid is of "critical importance" to Israel, whose defense budget constitutes about 10 percent of its gross domestic product.
The aid package to Israel was finalized in June in Washington between President Bush and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel. Olmert has said the increase in military aid to Israel would guarantee its strategic superiority, despite upgrades to Arab countries in the region.
The United States has longstanding commitments to Israel and to Egypt, which in 1979 became the first Arab state to make peace with Israel. Egypt gets $1.3 billion a year in military assistance. At the same time, the United States is seeking to strengthen other moderate Mideast allies, largely as a counterweight to Iran's growing influence.
The United States and Israel accuse Iran of developing nuclear bombs, a charge Tehran denies. Iran, whose leader has repeatedly called for Israel to be to wiped off the map, is viewed by Israel as its main enemy.
Shi'ite Muslim Iran also concerns the Saudis and other Sunni-led Arab allies of the United States.
The Bush administration must receive congressional approval for the aid deals, but Burns said he believed there would be little opposition in the Senate and House.