JERUSALEM (Sep. 23)
Acting Foreign Minister Moshe Arens summoned British Ambassador William Squire to the Foreign Ministry today to convey Israel’s displeasure over British plans to sell Jordan and Saudi Arabia $4.4 billion worth of combat aircraft and other advanced weaponry and to protest Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s invitation to two ranking members of the Palestine Liberation Organization to meet with her in London.
Arens, substituting for Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir who is in New York attending the United Nations General Assembly, told reporters after the meeting that he had informed the British envoy that Israel regards these moves as a radical deviation from the common position taken by Western democratic nations with respect to the Middle East.
He said he disagreed with the views expressed by some Western experts that the weapons sales would not affect the military balance of power in the region. “I would be very surprised if anybody with knowledge of military technology and the Mideast arms balance would make such a statement,” Arens declared.
Referring to the Tornado jet fighter-bomber which Britain has contracted to sell to Saudi Arabia, Arens observed it was a good aircraft, especially suited to high speed, low level penetration raids, a capability that causes serious concern in Israel. He noted that the Saudis have an air base at Tabuk which is a very short jet flight from Israel and which could serve as a base for attacks on Israel.
Arens added that the Tornado is a significant addition to the very large weapons arsenal the Saudis already possess. “If these weapons were insignificant and really made no difference to the arms balance, you wouldn’t think that either the Saudis or the Jordanians would purchase them,” he said.