JERUSALEM (Sep. 19)
Israel has expressed serious concern over Britain’s 3 billion Pounds Sterling arms deal with Saudi Arabia and its proposed sale of advanced weapons to Jordan, where Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is currently visiting.
The British will sell Saudi Arabia 48 of its highly rated Tornado jet fighters — the attack version of the plane according to reports from London — plus 40 Hawk training jets. The Foreign Ministry, noting Thursday that both Saudi Arabia and Jordan are “formally in a state of war with Israel,” warned that the weapons could be used against Israel even though this was not the seller’s intention. Moreover, the Foreign Ministry said, the sales will upset the military balance in the Middle East.
Thatcher reportedly is trying to interest the Jordanians in Tornado jets. They may be amenable to her sales pitch in view of the looming battle on Capitol Hill if Jordan sought to buy equivalent weaponry from the U.S. But the Reagan Administration indicated Wednesday that it plans to go ahead with major arms sales to Jordan despite strong Congressional opposition.
The Administration is holding off, however, on the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia, except for spare parts for military equipment the Saudis already have. This, apparently, is because it wants to avoid a major bottle with Congress. The Administration reportedly gave its blessings to the British sale of combat aircraft to the Saudis.
The Israeli media reported Thursday that there is rising anger in the U.S. government and the aeronautical industry over the pro-Israel lobby’s efforts to thwart American arms sales to both Jordan and Saudi Arabia, with the result that those countries have decided to shop elsewhere.