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July 15, 1988 - Image 20

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-07-15

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

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20

FRIDAY, JULY -15, 1988

Arms Sales

Continued from Page 1

tain, which are far less sen-
sitive than the United States
to Israel's security needs.
The sources point to the re-
cent revelation that China is
to sell Saudi Arabia surface-
to-surface missiles which will
be capable of reaching major
civilian targets in Israel.
Equally damaging, they
say, was the weekend an-
nouncement that Britain and
Saudi Arabia have concluded
an agreement dubbed the
"arms deal of the decade" —
which, according to Israeli
Defense Minister Yitzhak
Rabin, is worth up to $30
billion.
A vaguely worded British
Defense Ministry statement
noted simply that the sale
would involve "aircraft, a con-
struction programme and
specialized navy vessels."
According to Israeli sources,
however, the deal includes the
sale of six minesweepers, 50
Tornado jet fighters, 50 Hawk
jet trainers, 90 helicopter
gunships and other weapons
systems. It also involves the
construction of two air bases.
The Israeli sources point
out that while the sale will
not significantly alter the
military balance of power in
the region, it will bring Saudi
Arabia into any future Mid-
dle East war equation.
This, they add, could in-
= crease the possibility of Israel
launching a pre-emptive
strike against Saudi Arabia if
a full-scale Middle East con-
flict appeared imminent.
An unnamed senior Israel
Air Force officer, quoted in
the Hebrew-language daily
Yediot Ahranot, said that the
Saudi acquisition of the rIbr-
nado jet, which is considered
to be the most advanced
fighter plane in Europe, con-
stituted a serious threat to
Israel.
Even more alarming to the
Israelis, however, is the fact
that the deal involves the
transfer of highly sophisti-
cated Western technology to
Saudi Arabia.
According to one military
source, quoted in the Hebrew-
language daily Ma'ariv, the
sale would provide the Saudis
not only with a quantitative
but also with a qualitative
leap: "In any future war," he.
said, "we will be faced by a
Saudi threat that did not ex-
ist before!'
Former Defense Minister
Ezer Weizman conceded that
Israel might have been wrong
to block the sale of United
States F-15 and F-16 aircraft
to Saudi Arabia. With the
benefit of hindsight, he said
he would have preferred the
United States to have sup-
plied the Saudis with aircraft.
Under such circumstances,

Israel might have been able
to persuade Washington to re-
strict the number of aircraft
it sold and to impose condi-
tions that would have pro-
hibited the aircraft from
being used against Israel.
Current Defense Minister
Rabin also expressed concern
at the escalating pace of the
Middle East arms race.
"We believe that the Arab
countries are spending be-
tween $40 billion and $60
billion each year on main-
taining and purchasing more
and better arms!" he told
delegates attending a meet-
ing in Jerusalem of the Rab-
binical Council of America.
Meanwhile, Dr Ze'ev Eytan,
a specialist in the Middle
East military balance at the
Tel Aviv University Center
for Strategic Studies, warned
that there were inherent

"In any future war,
we will be faced by
a Saudi threat that
did not exist
before."

dangers in Saudi Arabia's
rapidly expanding arms
stockpile.
"The more the Saudis
have," he said, "the greater
will be the pressure on them
from other Arab states to con-
tribute something to the Arab
war effort against Israel —
and they can do so."
Meanwhile, Israel and its
highly effective Washington
lobby will now have to con-
front some hard questions
about their future responses
to proposed United States
arms sales to Arab states.
On the one hand, they will
find it difficult to turn a blind
eye to military deals between
Washington and countries
that are formally at war with
Israel; on the other, they must
recognize that Arab states
will acquire arms from other
sources if Washington refuses
to meet their demands.
They must make the
calculation that while the
United States can be expected
to restrict the use of certain
weapons in particular cir-
cumstances, other arms sup-
pliers are -unlikely to act with
such consideration and
understanding for Israel's
security interests.
As if to underscore the
dilemma, Kuwait announced
early this week that it had
signed an arms deal with the
Soviet Union just two days
after the United States
Senate declined to sell it the
Maverick air-to-ground
missile system.

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