U.S. Approves Diplomatic Immunity to Israeli Military Mission

The Reagan administration has granted a limited form of diplomatic immunity to roughly 50 officials in Israel’s military procurement mission in New York.

State Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley announced Thursday that from now on, the United States will consider the 250-person mission as an “annex to the Israeli Consulate” in New York.

The 50 represent the Israeli defense professionals, while the others are support personnel.

The officials are being granted “consular immunity,” which would protest them from U.S. prosecution for activities directly related to their official functions.

Oakley said such agreements usually do not apply retroactively. The procurement mission has been cited in a number of U.S. government probes, including a 1986 case in which eight officials were subpoenaed for allegedly exporting materials for cluster bombs without U.S. permission.

The mission, an arm of the Israel Defense Ministry, negotiates contracts with U.S. defense firms seeking a share of the $1.8 billion in annual U.S. military aid to Israel.

“Most other countries that conduct defense procurement activities from offices in Washington do so within their embassies (there), and are therefore covered by diplomatic immunities and privileges,” she added.

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