TEL AVIV (Feb. 27)
The United States has speeded up delivery of vital weapons to Israel, including Apache attack helicopters, which have arrived two years ahead of the original Israel Defense Force target dates.
David Ivri, director general of the Israeli Defense Ministry, disclosed the accelerated schedule in an interview to be published here Friday in the National Religious Party newspaper Hatzofeh.
Ivri, who accompanied Defense Minister Moshe Arens during his Feb. 11 meeting in Washington with Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, also cited the speedy delivery of U.S. Patriot antimissile systems after the first Iraqi missile attack on Israel as an example of the high-level strategic cooperation between the two countries.
“I have no doubt that the implementation of certain logistical steps, such as the delivery of Patriots, at the pace which has occurred until now, is the result of the infrastructure which was established by strategic cooperation,” Ivri said.
Ten attack helicopters and 12 early-model F-15 aircraft were part of the $700 million in special military assistance the Bush administration promised Israel after Iraq invaded Kuwait.
“But delivery was delayed when the Gulf war started” on Jan. 17, military analyst Ze’ev Schiff wrote in the Feb. 21 edition of The Jerusalem Report, an English-language weekly.
“Israel was informed that not all the promised equipment might be available: Some was needed for the war, and the whole list would have to be reassessed later on,” Schiff wrote.
But “as things developed, instead of the one Patriot that the United States had promised, six were sent to Israel,” Schiff pointed out, adding that some might remain there after the war.
Ivri told Hatzofeh that strategic cooperation with Washington has become “normal, mutual and reaches the highest levels.” He said this cooperation “maintains ongoing work and creates important personal relations.”
Speaking of Israel’s policy of restraint in face of Iraqi Scud missile attacks, the Defense Ministry official said it is the government’s duty to discuss and determine when to respond.
“This deliberation indicates the state’s maturity and reflects on the existence of our military capability and the possibility of the country’s response,” he said.
Israel has received word from the Dutch government, meanwhile, that it will not have to pay Holland for missiles fired by the eight Dutch Patriot batteries that arrived here Sunday night.
The anti-missile systems were positioned west of Jerusalem Monday afternoon and are now operational.
(JTA correspondent Henrietta Boas in Amsterdam contributed to this report.)