BONN (Dec. 18)
The government has placed Middle Eastern countries into two categories — those which may purchase West German arms and those in “areas of tension” which may not. Israel is in the latter category.
This emerged from the government’s reply to a parliamentary question by a member of the small opposition Green Party which expressed concern that projected weapons sales to Saudi Arabia would lead eventually to similar sales to Israel.
The government explained that Saudi Arabia is not considered to be in an “area of tension” whereas Israel is and, in addition to Israel, so are Iraq, Iran, Syria and Lebanon.
SELECTIVE POLICY ON ARMS SALES
The government’s reply to the Green Party was the first indication that Bonn’s long-standing policy of no arms sales to countries in troubled regions was selective. The categorizing of countries was apparently in response to growing opposition to Saudi arms sales by leftwing Bundestag members and others sympathetic to the Arabs.
Even Hans-Juergen Wischnewski of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the largest opposition faction, who has been a dedicated supporter of the Saudi arms deal, says he is now opposed. Bonn’s position in the Arab world will suffer heavily if Israel is allowed to fight its wars with German weapons, Wischnewski has warned.
It was not immediately clear whether the new division of the Middle East into tense and non-tense areas was no more than an attempt to mollify leftwing deputies who vigorously oppose any military cooperation with Israel. Their fears may have been aroused by aides of Chancellor Helmut Kohl who said a few days ago that if the arms sales to Saudi Arabia went through, Israel may also be allowed to meet some of its security needs through purchases in West Germany.
KOHL TO VISIT ISRAEL IN JANUARY
Kohl is scheduled to pay his first visit to Israel as Chancellor from January 24-29, 1984. The main topic of his talks with Israeli leaders is expected to be Bonn’s decision to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, a plan strenuously opposed by the Israelis.
According to Kohl’s aides, the Chancellor will make clear to his hosts that there is no way to withdraw the commitments already made to the Saudis, but he will offer Israel access to German military technology long sought by Jerusalem but denied it in the past.
Israel is known to want a license to produce the powerful 120 mm cannon of the West German Leopard II tank and a number of other items. But Israeli officials insist publicly that there will be no change in their opposition to German arms sales to Arab countries and no compromise on the issue.