Israel’s neighbours are buying arms on a scale that threatens its regional military superiority, the deputy Israeli air force chief said on Sunday, in remarks that appeared aimed at helping secure more defence aid from a reluctant Washington.

U.S. military payouts to Israel, currently around $3 billion annually, expire in 2018, and Israeli officials have spoken of needing around $4.5 billion. U.S. officials have balked at such an increase.

At the heart of the dispute is how to perpetuate Israel’s qualitative military edge – a guarantee that it gets more advanced U.S. weapons than Arab states get. Israel says it needs to bulk up its armed forces, not just upgrade their technologies, to keep ahead of potential foes.

“There are countries here which have plans that are being actualised for arms deals in the hundreds of billions of dollars, for the most advanced Western weaponry and the most advanced Eastern weaponry,” Brigadier-General Tal Kelman told a conference to promote Israel’s purchase of the advanced U.S. fighter jet the F-35.

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