Cheney Says Friends of Israel Should Not Back Defense Cuts

Defense Secretary Richard Cheney said Tuesday that supporters of Israel who want drastic cuts in U.S. defense spending hold “fundamentally incompatible” positions.

“Some people who like to portray themselves as great friends of Israel are in the forefront of those who want to cut the defense budget drastically to cash in on a peace dividend,” Cheney said.

“You should listen to that kind of posturing with a great deal of skepticism,” Cheney told the United Jewish Appeal’s seventh National Young Leadership Conference here.

“I believe those two positions are fundamentally incompatible,” he said.

On other topics, Cheney, who is to visit Israel in May, said the United States has “not yet finalized” a sale to Israel of Patriot air-defense missiles and the use of intelligence from U.S. early-warning satellites. The sale is estimated to cost $200 million.

Israel is due to begin receiving its third order of F-16 aircraft in 1991, “and we expect the Israeli Defense Force to be getting its first Apache attack helicopters soon,” he reported.

Cheney also defended U.S. arms sales to Arab countries other than Egypt.

“To the extent that the U.S. has influence throughout the region, that’s also important from the standpoint of Israel’s security interests,” said Cheney.

When Arab countries are “able to satisfy their legitimate security requirements by meeting with the U.S., instead of some other major foreign power or arms supplier, that’s in our interest as well as in Israel’s interest,” he said.

Cheney also defended the recent U.S. decision to send Egypt 700 Ml-Al tanks that were going to be destroyed otherwise as part of a U.S.-Soviet arms reduction program.

In return, Egypt will destroy older Soviet made tanks on a one-for-one basis.

Pro-Israel lobbyists have criticized the transfer as setting a bad precedent for other weaponry that may be retired and then shipped to the Middle East by both superpowers.

Cheney said the Israeli government has not objected to that practice.

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