The Obama Administration has asked for clarification regarding the $52,000 drone Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel (Habayit Hayehudi) last week handed over to Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev during a tour of the Volcani Center (Research Staff ‘Down’ $52 K Gift Drone from Israeli Minister to Russian PM).
A senior official in Jerusalem has told Ha’aretz the Americans wanted to know if US made technology was onboard the gifted drone. Apparently, US embassy diplomats have already contacted Israel’s defense, foreign, and agriculture ministries, as well as the prime minister’s deputy national security advisor, after having read about the Agriculture Minister’s generosity in his rare bout with diplomacy.
The Americans believe a sophisticated, US made camera is installed on the Volcani drone, the kind that require a special application for US government permission should said camera be sold to a third-party. Needless to say, in the current political frost between US Democrats and Russian officials, and considering the economic sanctions against Russia, such an application would have ended up in a DC shredder.
So far, according to Ha’aretz, Jerusalem has told Washington the camera was removed from the drone (which was made in Spain). But now the Israeli defense ministry has been wondering just how many local security regulations the generous minister violated. Needless to say, he did not consult the defense apparatus before making his $52,000 gesture of friendship.
It should be noted in Minister Ariel’s defense that his ministry is in the midst of negotiating an $11 billion agricultural cooperation deal, so that from his point of view the drone was a small price to pay considering such enormous stakes.
As we mentioned yesterday, when the representatives from the Russian embassy showed up at the Rishon Lezion Volcani institute, they were handed the drone but not its operating system or remote control. The Volcani scientists insist they’d let go of those when they see the $52,000 increase in their operating budget, thank you very much.David Israel