Israel is Unlikely to Mount Battle Against New Massive Sale to Saudis

Israel and its supporters in Washington are unlikely to mount a major political battle in the U.S. Congress to try to thwart the most massive U.S. arms sale in history to Saudi Arabia.

That was the feeling here over the weekend following the Pentagon’s announcement last week that the Bush administration had agreed to sell the Saudis about $20 billion in advanced weapons and technical support over several years.

Once Congress is formally notified of the arms sale this week, it will have 30 days to vote it down. If it does not, the sale will automatically go through.

Israeli correspondents reporting from Washington said congressional opinion is broadly supportive of the administration in light of the Persian Gulf situation.

Nevertheless, the Israeli Embassy in Washington issued a statement of concern over the mammoth Saudi arms deal.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens was expected to raise the issue at his talks in Washington on Monday with U.S. Defense Secretary Dick Cheney.

The Saudi shopping list, for which it pays cash, is reported to included F-15 fighter planes, Patriot ground-to-air missiles, Apache anti-tank helicopters and possibly mobile missile launchers.

They will be in addition to the hundreds of tanks and armored vehicles and thousands of trucks for Saudi Arabia announced by administration officials earlier this month, in a sale reported to value $2.2 billion.

Spare parts, training and maintenance of the equipment are part of the latest deal, which dwarfs the earlier one by a factor of nine.

NO ‘RECIPE FOR STABILITY’

Gen. Dan Shomron, the Israel Defense Force chief of staff, said Sunday that the proposed arms package is hardly a “recipe for stability” in the Middle East one the Persian Gulf crisis is resolved.

He said he hoped the United States would “at least counterbalance” the effect of the weaponry by supplying Israel with the means to “ensure its deterrent edge.”

Foreign Minister David Levy told the Cabinet on Sunday that the he received solemn assurances from President Bush and Secretary of State James Baker that the United States would see to it that Israel maintains its qualitative military edge over any potential Arab adversary.

Levy reported on his recent talks is Washington before flying to Brussels for meetings with the foreign ministers of the European Community.

Israel is deeply troubled by the possibility that huge quantities of advanced U.S. weapons sold to Saudi Arabia, even if never intended to be used against Israel, could one day fall into the hands of a more hostile radical Arab regime.

Military circles here noted, for example, the sizeable quantities of U.S. military hardware supplied to Kuwait, over Israel’s objections, that have been seized by Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

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