By Munir K. Nasser
The US Senate voted this week to allocate significant military funds to Israel that would bring the US-Israeli strategic cooperation to a higher level.
The Senate Appropriations Committee added $8 million to move the Arrow missile defense program to a new phase of cooperation known as the Arrow System Improvement Plan. The Committee also added $20.7 million for the Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL), which could become an increasingly important system in the light of Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon. The system is designed to shoot down short-range rockets, such as those used by Hizbollah.
According to Congressional sources, the Committee allocated $25 million for Bradley Reactive Armor Tiles, a defensive technique pioneered by Israel that allows tanks to destroy enemy fire before impact.
Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees met the Clinton Administration's request of $120.5 million for the T-38 Upgrade program for the Air Force, with nearly a third of the $120.5 million allocated for spending on Israeli avionics. The Senate committee also added $20 million for the Improved Tactical Air Launched Decoy (ITALD) system, which is jointly produced by Israeli and American companies.
In a related development, the US Department of Defense announced that it would be supplying Israel with projectiles and high explosives estimated at $62 million “to maintain Israel’s projected sustainment rates and reserve levels.”
According to a press release by the Pentagon, this proposed sale “will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country which has been and continues to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East.”
The Pentagon also announced last week that Egypt also has requested military equipment and support from the US estimated at $48 million.
According to the Pentagon, Egypt’s shopping list include 279 M109A2/A3 155mm self-propelled howitzers, support equipment, spare and repair parts, publications and technical data, personnel training and training equipment, and other related elements of logistics support. Egypt will use these howitzers to replace aging Soviet towed artillery and to complement the modernization of the M1A1/M60A3 divisions.
The Pentagon said the proposed sale of this equipment and support would not affect the basic military balance in the region.
The military sale announcements to Israel and Egypt came in the aftermath of US warning to Syria against stalling peace talks. Defense Secretary William Cohen warned Syria last week that Damascus will not benefit from delaying peace negotiations with Israel until a new US administration takes office this upcoming January. "It would be a mistake for Syria to believe that there are any benefits to waiting until next year," he said in a speech to the US Chamber of Commerce.
Cohen also reminded Damascus that Prime Minister Barak has promised a very tough response if Israel is attacked after its withdrawal from Lebanon. "This could go up the ladder very quickly -- very dangerously," Cohen said in his speech. "It is very tense now in southern Lebanon." Cohen warned, "there is likely to be retribution against those [Lebanese] seen as supporting Israel," and expressed concern over the possibility of cross-border attacks.
Cohen’s warning followed similar statements by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who urged Syria to ensure peace along the Israeli-Lebanese borders. She said Syria has a "special responsibility" to make sure that the situation along the border between Israel and Lebanon "is not exacerbated." – Albawaba.com
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)