WASHINGTON (May. 6)
Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin and U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger signed Tuesday a memorandum of understanding on Israeli participation in the Reagan Administration’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) or “Star Wars.”
The agreement allows Israeli laboratories, research establishments and companies to bid on contracts for SDI research, according to Frank Gaffney, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy.
But Gaffney said the agreement was “classified” as were accompanying letters. He would not reveal what kind of research Israel would do except to say the Israelis would focus on “wherever they have the capability.”
The brief signing ceremony was held at the Pentagon, with Weinberger stressing that the agreement “advances further” the SDI program. He noted that Britain and West Germany had earlier signed agreements to participate.
THE NATURE OF THE COOPERATION
Rabin said that Israel wanted to cooperate in the program “in the way which helps our own problems along.” While Rabin did not explain what he meant, Gaffney indicated that in the short term Israel is concerned about a defense system against anti-ballistic missiles.
Although SDI is controversial in the United States, it is not in Israel, where Israel’s participation is seen as a means of helping the economy as well as keeping Israeli scientists and technological personnel from emigrating.
However, Gaffney noted that it was possible that some of the funding for the projects would come from Israel. After the ceremony, Rabin and Weinberger met over lunch to discuss other issues. Earlier in the day, Rabin met with Vice President George Bush at the White House for 30 minutes after which they stressed to reporters the need for continued cooperation against international terrorism.
Both agreed that Syria, as well as Libya, is behind many of the terrorist acts. “We are convinced that their fingerprints have been on international terrorist acts,” Bush said of Syria.
Rabin said that Israel has “reason to believe that Syria was deeply involved” in the recent attempt to blow up an El Al plane leaving London. He said the plot was thwarted through the cooperation of Israeli and British security.
Rabin stressed that Israel’s major problem with terrorism is not with individual terrorist groups, but when “terror is supported, hosted, financed, encouraged by sovereign states who are committed to the use of terror as one of the means for the achievement of their political goals.”