WASHINGTON (Mar. 1)
Israel’s economic austerity program, coupled by the increasing arms buildup of its Arab enemies, may be cutting Israel’s “margin of safety,” Thomas Dine, executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). warned Thursday.
“What we have is a pattern of accelerated Arab buildup while Israel substantially cuts its forces,” Dine told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “The effort to maintain the qualitative edge adds to the burden on the Israeli economy, further worsening the quantitative gap in the Arab states’ favor.”
The director of the pro-Israel lobbying organization was testifying in support of the Reagan Administration’s proposal to provide Israel $3 billion in aid for the 1988 fiscal year. The $1.2 billion in economic grants and $1.8 billion in military is the same amount appropriated for the current year.
Among the seven largest arms importers are Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Jordan, Dine noted. He added that the United States has been a major supplier of the weapons to “these avowed enemies of Israel.”
“American sales of new weapons to hostile Arab nations have had a particularly profound impact on the military balance between Israel and those states because American technology is often superior to that of competing weapons,” Dine stressed.
He praised U.S. economic assistance to Israel, noting that it “has made a concrete difference in Israel’s struggle to regain economic stability” at a time when Israel has undertaken “some of the toughest austerity measures ever imposed by a democracy in a compressed period of time.”
Dine urged increased U.S. economic assistance to the West Bank, over the Administration’s $7 million request for 1988. He also urged substantial contributions from the West European countries and Japan.
King Hussein of Jordan “has sought to implement an ambitious $1.4 billion development plan to upgrade the skills, abilities and incomes of Palestinians in the territories in an effort to promote a moderate influence and leadership there more likely to engage in the peace process,” Dine pointed out.
In addition to the lack of funds, Dine noted that Saudi Arabia and Kuwait “have actively moved to undercut King Hussein and bolster” the Palestine Liberation Organization “by donating $9.5 million and $5 million, respectively, to revive a committee dedicated to promoting PLO influence in the territories.”