Bowing to U.S. pressure, Israel to curb arms deals

Ze'ev Schiff


Sivan 19, 5765

Israel has decided to comply with all of Washington's demands in a bid to end the crisis with the United States over arms exports.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz last week agreed to comply with the Americans' demands regarding the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) deal with China and changes in the supervision of Israel's arms exports.

On Friday, Sharon instructed an Israeli delegation leaving Sunday for Washington to agree to American demands. The delegation is expected to draft a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on weapons exports with the United States.

Israel hopes this move will end the U.S. sanctions against it, which have been in place for half a year and have caused grave damage to Israel's defense industries and the work relations between the Defense Ministry and the Pentagon.

Among other things, the Americans severed their work relations with Defense Ministry Director General Major General Amos Yaron. Yaron said he intends to retire within the next few months.

The export crisis with the U.S. erupted at the end of last year following Washington's demand that Israel not return to China spare parts of Harpy UAVs. The Israeli-manufactured UAVs had been sold to China and were sent here for repairs. This conflict is one of the gravest ever to erupt between the two countries in recent years.

The decision to accept all of the U.S.'s demands means that once again Israel will have to violate an agreement to supply defense equipment to China, five years after it canceled the Falcon airplane deal.

China is expected to demand compensation fees for Israel's breaking of the agreement, as it did after Israel revoked the Falcon deal. According to the present deal, Israel had undertaken to supply China over the years with spare parts for UAVs made by the Israel Aircraft Industries.

Israel has been holding on to the UAV parts in question at Washington's demand. Now these parts will not be returned to China. It also appears that the Chinese will avoid making large-scale agreements with Israel in the future.

The U.S. says this is not an isolated incident and that it reflects a pattern. They cite the Falcon airplane affair and before that, the sale of advanced Lavi airplane technology and air-to-air missiles to China.

The Americans have demanded recently that the government deal directly with decisions on arms sales to China. Friends of Israel in Congress and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee have criticized its management of the crisis and urged it to avoid exacerbating the conflict.

One of the U.S.'s central demands, which Israel has accepted, is the introduction of fundamental amendments into the legislation dealing with arms sales, including regulations for dual civil-military use equipment.

By so doing Israel will be implementing the international Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies of 1996. More than 30 states have adopted the arrangement.

Mofaz intends to advise Washington that he will appoint a senior defense official to coordinate the supervision issues and present new proposals. This official is Brigadier General (res.) Uzi Eilam, formerly the director of the Atomic Energy Committee and head of the directorate of defense research and development in the Defense Ministry.