US Delays Military Deals with Israel in Bid to Block China Sale
The United States is delaying military deals with Israel in order to put pressure on the Jewish state to cancel its controversial arms deal with China, the leading Haaretz newspaper reported Sunday.
The Hebrew paper said Israeli requests for new weapons and advanced military technology would be subjected to a "very harsh review," according to a senior Pentagon source.
The dispute over the sale of the Israeli-made AWACS planes to China has clouded American-Israeli relations in recent weeks and may thwart Prime Minister Ehud Barak's efforts to "upgrade" the strategic relationship with Washington, it said.
The Israeli delegation to the Strategic Policy Planning Group (SPPG) is leaving for the United States today and will present Israel's proposal for a new strategic accord.
Haaretz added that preparatory discussions led to an agreement that the difference of opinion on China would not appear on the agenda, but the Americans made it clear that this issue would affect the atmosphere of the SPPG talks. The American view is that it is inappropriate for Israel to ask to upgrade its strategic relations with the US while carrying out a sale of weaponry to China that constitutes a threat to an important American security interest.
Israel has so far resisted US opposition to its deal to fit Chinese planes with Airborne Warning and Control Systems made by state-owned Israel Aircraft Industries for 250 million dollars each.
Washington fears the technology will be used to China's advantage in a conflict with Taiwan, giving Beijing an important new capability.
The complete deal with Israel could provide China with up to eight of the AWACS, though officials speaking during Chinese President Jiang Zemin's recent visit here voiced the possibility of a compromise providing for just one aircraft being supplied.
During a visit to Israel earlier this month, US Defense Secretary William Cohen described the sale as "counterproductive" at a time of rising tensions between China and Taiwan.
China and Israel only established diplomatic ties in 1992, although military cooperation began secretly at least a decade earlier and is now valued at hundreds of millions of dollars -- Albawaba.com
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)