Israel is on High State of Alert and Wants U.S. to Help Bear Cost

The first public admission that Israeli forces have been on a higher-than-usual state of alert because of the Persian Gulf crisis was made Tuesday by Defense Minister Moshe Arens.

Arens told some 50 leaders of the State of Israel Bonds Organization, here to celebrate the group’s 40th anniversary, that the United States should compensate Israel for the high cost of the military alert.

Arens said President Bush’s proposal to forgive Egypt’s $7 billion debt was “understandable under the circumstances.” But he added that when the United States talks of “burden-sharing” in the crisis, it should not forget the cost borne by Israel.

Earlier in the week, Finance Minister Yitzhak Moda’i suggested that the United States forgive Israel’s debt, which amounts to some $4.5 billion. But Israel has not formally requested such a waiver.

Meanwhile, in a separate meeting Tuesday night with the Bonds leaders, Deputy Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and other pro-Israel lobbying groups in Washington must fight the proposed emergency sale of sophisticated U.S. arms to Saudi Arabia, because they pose a threat to Israel and create greater instability in the region.

Speaking with a sarcastic edge to his voice, Netanyahu mocked the ability of Arab nations to figure out how to use the sophisticated weaponry they have already acquired.

“How can one expect a Saudi Arabian to be a fighter pilot when they haven’t yet invented a Saudi bricklayer?” he asked.

Netanyahu said that pro-Israel lobbying groups in the United States must also ensure that the Palestine Liberation Organization is not permitted to restore its now-tarnished image.

The PLO is no longer the “sacred cow” of the West, now that its leader, Yasir Arafat, has supported Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, he said.

“The PLO has been wounded,” he said, “but we must be sure it is killed. Otherwise it will start grazing again.”

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