JERUSALEM, JAN. 22 -- Israel said today that it will need at least $13 billion in additional economic aid from the United States because of the Persian Gulf War and the cost of absorbing Jewish immigrants from the Soviet Union.
The estimate, which is in addition to the $3 billion Israel is to receive this year from Washington in military and economic assistance, includes approximately $3 billion in estimated losses arising from the war just until mid-February.
The bulk of the total new estimate, $10 billion, is in a proposed package of grants and loan guarantees Israel says it needs to help pay for the absorption of 1 million Soviet Jewish immigrants by the end of 1992.
Finance Minister Yitzhak Modai, who presented the estimate in a meeting today with Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger, denied reporters' suggestions that it is linked to any promise of continued restraint by Israel in the face of Iraqi missile attacks on Israeli cities. "I can say with certainty and decisiveness that no such promise was given, not concerning this aid or any other aid," Modai said.
Defense Minister Moshe Arens also said Israel's restraint was unconnected to receiving permission from anybody, including the United States.
Speaking to reporters during a visit to an Israeli air force base, Arens said, "If attacked we will respond, and we have been attacked." Iraq last week launched two attacks by Scud missiles against Tel Aviv and Haifa, injuring 28 people. Another attack today resulted in three deaths and at least 96 injuries.
Asked before today's Iraqi missile attack whether Israel would retaliate for a third such strike, Arens replied, "I don't think there is any need to telegraph our intentions and say how we are going to respond and at what time."
Modai said Eagleburger did not attempt to impose conditions on any future approval of increased aid by the U.S. administration. "Our guest understood well that this is not the time to play with all sorts of political conditions and bureaucratic procedures," Modai said.
Modai said he did not present a formal aid request, but simply outlined estimated financial needs that he said are expected to mount if the war continues for months. And, he said, "This is only part of the bill that the war presents us with."
He said he expects a partial answer from the United States on the aid estimates in the next few days.
Modai said the Bush administration has been aware of Israel's need for $10 billion in grants and loan and investment guarantees for absorbing Soviet immigrants since a meeting he had with Eagleburger late last year. He said absorbing the immigrants would cost a total of $20 billion, and that Israel would raise $10 billion from other sources.
Of his own estimate of $2.96 billion in costs directly associated with the war, Modai said, "I don't think this was the forecast of Mr. Eagleburger at all. He's not that optimistic." Modai indicated he meant that the costs could exceed $2.96 billion between the outbreak of the war and mid-February.
The finance minister explained his estimate of war costs this way:$1 billion in lost economic output during a virtual shutdown since the start of a state of emergency.
$1 billion in lost tourism revenue and higher energy costs.
$400 million in direct military expenditures stemming from the conflict.
$250 million in lost export orders.
$180 million in increased insurance payments.
$100 million in loss of transport services.
$30 million in property damage caused by the missile attacks before today.
An aide to Modai said the estimated cost for military expenditures would rise significantly if the threat of Iraqi attack became more general and required additional military measures, such as mobilizing some reserves.
Another senior official defended Modai for giving the estimates when asked why Israel would disclose aid estimates associated with the war at a time when U.S.-Israel collaboration is a sensitive subject for some Arab partners in the allied coalition.
"All we're saying is, 'Here are our problems. What can you do to help us?' It's nothing official, it is just estimates. I don't see why we should not say what we are losing," said Yossi Olmert, director of the government press office.
Olmert added, "We're not complaining to anybody. There's no demand, no linking and no pressure. We've got to say how devastating this is to our economy. Besides, everybody else is getting compensated. Why shouldn't we?"
He indicated he was referring to countries such as Egypt and Jordan, which have received substantial U.S. aid to cover costs associated with Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.