WASHINGTON (Oct. 2)
The technology being developed through the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) will not only provide a defense against intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), but also against short-range missiles such as threaten Israel, two Pentagon officials stressed Wednesday.
Frank Gaffney, Jr., Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear Forces and Arms Control Policy, and Air Force Lt. Gen. James Abrahamson, director of SDI, discussed SDI, popularly known as “Star Wars,” and Israel before a group of Jews from across the country at the Old Executive Office Building, next to the White House.
Gaffney said that Israel wants a defense against tactical ballistic missiles that now threaten it from the air, land or sea. The Soviet Union has provided Syria with the highly-accurate SS-21 missile which can hit Israel’s population centers, as well as military targets.
Abrahamson said that Israel must stop a missile “not in the last few seconds when it goes off over that tiny country … The best place to stop it is as soon as possible right after it’s launched.”
There is a popular misconception that SDI is aimed at providing the United States with an “umbrella” against ICBMs, Abrahamson said. But he said the program is aimed to find “an effective defense against ballistic missiles of all ranges” to protect the U.S. and its allies, including Israel.
THE OVERALL AIM
He stressed that the overall aim is to “incorporate a defensive strategy into our overall strategy in such a way as to prevent a nuclear war on a worldwide scale.” Both Abrahamson and Gaffney said that the Soviet Union has been working on an SDI for years and now has the only operational anti-ballistic missile system.
Abrahamson noted that a satellite warning system would not only alert the U.S. to attacking ICBMs but also West Europe and Israel to short range missiles. He noted it will be easier to respond against short-range missiles because of the lesser distance although there will be less time than against ICBMs.
The U.S. invited 18 countries to participate in the SDI research and on May 16 Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin and U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger signed at the Pentagon a memorandum of understanding on Israel’s participation.
The memorandum gives Israel the right to compete with the other participating countries and the U.S. for SDI research contracts. Abrahamson said two contracts have been signed with Israel and three more are expected to be signed soon for a total of about $10 million.
Noting that he has had years of personal experience dealing with Israel, Abrahamson had high praise for its scientific know-how. “There are more technically qualified people, scientists and engineers in Israel per 1,000 people in the population than anywhere on earth,” he said. He added that the Israelis are not only creative, but have the “capability to respond quickly,” something which he said the U.S. must learn.