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Knesset Panel Clears Way to Publish Highly Critical Report on Lavi Jet

The Knesset’s Public Audit Committee voted Wednesday that a section on the Lavi fighter plane project severely critical of the decision-making process in military procurement may be included in the annual report of the State Comptroller, due to be published next month.

The vote was a reversal of one taken by the Committee Tuesday to delete that part of the Comptroller’s report from the public document. That had been the wish of the six members of Likud and Tehiya who outvoted the five Labor and leftwing members of the Committee.

But the Tehiya member, former Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan, agreed Wednesday to change his vote under a compromise proposed by the Laborites. It will permit publication of the section on the Lavi only if the Cabinet has by then reached a decision on the future of the project.

Maariv reported Wednesday that the State Comptroller’s findings on the Lavi project from its inception in 1980, constitutes probably the gravest indictment of government actions ever made by the public watchdog. It casts a heavy shadow on the governments in office since 1980, particularly the Defense Ministers.

DECISIONS RIPPED

According to Maariv, the Comptroller found that the initial decision by the Defense Ministry in 1980 to build the Lavi took no account of the economic aspects of the project, including export possibilities, or of alternative projects.

There was no examination of the Lavi’s impact on future defense programs nor was there cooperation between the Defense and Finance ministries on the costs, financing and technology of the project, according to the report.

Maariv reported that the Comptroller found, in addition, that there was no examination of the defense establishment’s long-term budget with respect to the Lavi’s engine nor was there any professional discussion between the Israel Defense Force’s planning departments and the Air Force about the suitability of the plane in a future war. Although the project did not meet the operational requirements of the Air Force, it was never brought before the Ministerial Defense Committee after 1980, Maariv reported. The decision to continue the project was made at a time when the government knew that General Dynamics in the U.S. was to submit alternative proposals for the manufacture of F-16s in Israel.

When that proposal was submitted, it was not given in-depth consideration, the Comptroller said, according to Maariv.

Finally, the Comptroller stated that all stages of the project lacked control mechanisms to warn of cost overruns. Only in 1985 was it discovered that the Lavi’s cost would exceed original estimates by 100 percent, Maariv reported.

The Lavi, Israel’s second-generation jet fighter plane, is already in serious trouble with the defense–establishment,.. which claims it…is diverting funds from other major weapons systems Israel will need in any future war.

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