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Lawmaker Suggests Five Ways to Improve Good U.s.-israeli Ties

Rep. Les Aspin (D-Wis.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has called for an intensified strategic relationship between the United States and Israel.

Speaking to the United Jewish Appeal’s National Young Leadership Conference here last week, the representative advocated various congressional measures that would bolster defense cooperation.

Aspin called for the U.S. military to deploy Israeli weapons “in quantity,” noting that the Pentagon is testing various Israeli-designed weaponry.

A Capitol Hill source explained that the Pentagon, through its foreign weapons evaluation program, tests well-made weaponry already in use by other countries.

The U.S. Navy deployed Israeli night-target systems from its helicopter gunships last fall when it searched for oil platforms in the Persian Gulf.

Aspin said that as a result of the 1983 Memorandum of Understanding, which set up joint military and political groups, “there have been joint military maneuvers between” Israeli and U.S. armed forces “to the mutual benefit of both.”

Aspin also noted that the U.S. Army recently agreed to jointly develop Israel’s Arrow anti-tactical ballistic missile (ATBM). The Pentagon will spend about $22 million this year for the U.S. research effort, with Congress having authorized up to $75 million for the program. Israel will pay 20 percent of the project’s cost.

The most publicized U.S.-Israeli defense problem of 1987 was Israel’s cancellation — under fierce U.S. pressure — of plans to build the Lavi fighter plane. Aspin called Israel’s cancellation of the project the “right decision.”

To offset the loss, the United States is allowing Israel to spend $300 million of its U.S. military aid within Israel on other military projects. Almost all of the other $1.5 billion must be spent on buying U.S. weapons.

Aspin recommended five congressional actions:

Make Israel a permanent non-North American Treaty Organization (NATO) ally. Congress currently bestows that status on a yearly basis. Israel gained that designation in 1987 and 1988.

Direct the Pentagon to establish a procurement office in Israel. Israel would have greater access to U.S. plans for building new weapons systems and Israeli defense firms would have greater procurement opportunities.

Exempt Israel from the Pentagon ban on “offshore procurement of munitions,” which would allow it to sell ammunition to the United States.

The Capitol Hill source explained the Pentagon is considering upgrading its 105mm tank guns to 120mm. Since Israel arguably makes the best 105mm munitions, it could serve as a temporary supply source as U.S. factories retool.

Include Israel in proposed protectionist legislation. The Pentagon automatically inflates the bids of all foreign countries by 50 percent.

Direct the Pentagon to include Israeli companies in the U.S. defense industrial base. Israel would benefit because its companies could then bid for additional projects set aside for countries included in that “base.”

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