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August 21, 1987 - Image 52

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-08-21

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.


• A



erusalem — Asking the
Israeli government to kill
the Lavi is a bit like ask-
ing Washington to close
down NASA.
Indeed, deciding the fate of
Israel's controversial jet fighter plane
is an issue of such monumental
proportions—with such far-reaching
political, economic and military
implications—that the Israeli govern-
ment, accustomed though it is to
regular doses of severe trauma, has
been sent into a state of shock.
Following a six-hour meeting on
Sunday, the cabinet once again put off
a decision on whether to scrap the
Lavi, a project that has already ab-
sorbed seven years of Israel's finest
talents and $1.5 billion in design and
development costs, almost all provid-
ed by the U.S.
It was the eighth time in the last
four months that the cabinet had at-
tempted to vote on the fate of the
Lavi. Each time there has been a
postponement to give proponents, and
the plane's manufacturer, Israel Air-
craft Industries, a chance to find at
least $500 million more a year to pro-
duce the Lavi and other needed
weapons systems. A cabinet com-
munique noted simply that Prime
Minister Yitzhak Shamir decided to
postpone the vote "for one or two
weeks in order to try to reach max-
imum agreement on this central
Not even the ministers who at-
tended the marathon session were
prepared to speculate on how a deci-
sion might have gone if the issue—
regarded as one of the most important


DAY,,AUG., 21 1 .19.87.:L.


II 1
Jerusalem must soon
make a painful
choice between
economic reality
and national pride


Special to The Jewish News

ever to be presented to an Israeli
cabinet—had been put to the vote.
The project has become a matter
of national pride. It is regarded as the
key to Israel's security (read: survival)
into the 21st Century and as both the
source and the showcase of Israel's
high-tech abilities, on which so many
hopes have been pinned.
A decision to scrap the project
would involve a massive climb-down
by Israel's politicians and a massive
let-down for its citizens. It would also
mark the end of a longstanding
Israeli ambition to be independent of
any other power for the source of a
vital means of its defense.
On a more tangible level, a deci-
sion to scrap the plane would cause
about 5,000 scientists, engineers and
technicians to be laid off, and would
place in doubt the future of Israel's

largest single enterprise, Israel Air-
craft Industries, which has an annual
turnover of $1 billion and a payroll of

There are doubts that the com-
pany, which is building the plane and
which provides a home for much of
the most innovative and exciting
high-tech development in Israel, could
sustain the psychological and finan-
cial blow of losing its largest and most
prestigious project.

Not least, a decision to scrap the
Lavi could force the best and
brightest of Israel's young scientists
and engineers, who were drafted into
the Lavi project, to seek more secure
employment abroad, taking with
them Israel's hopes of developing its
high-tech potential.
The effect of keeping the Lavi

alive, however, could be just as
Finance Minister Moshe Nissim
has already warned that a decision to
continue with the project will result
in a bloated national budget, ac-
celerated inflation, higher interest
rates, stifled industrial development
and mass unemployment as the coun-
try struggles to maintain its economic
Moreover, the United States, in
the form of both Defense Secretary
Caspar Weinberger and Secretary of
State George Shultz, have made un-
precedented intrusions into Israeli af-
fairs over the issue. This past week,
in the most blunt of terms, the
Reagan Administration issued a
statement calling on Jerusalem to
abandon the Lavi project, asserting
that the buck has stopped. The state-
ment said the project would eat up too
much of the $1.8 billion in American
military aid to Israel.
The implication has been that
while Israel alone will make the final
decision on the Lavi, a wrong
decision—that is, a decision to go
ahead with the project—could have
dire consequences.
Israel might well emerge with one
of the finest planes in the world—but
it will have very little else. For if
Israel goes ahead with the Lavi, they
say, it will have no resources left over
to develop and acquire essential
systems and weapons for its land
forces and navy.
And the United States, it has
been made clear, will not bail Israel
out by increasing its aid package.
In a message delivered to Israel's

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