WASHINGTON (Jun. 17)
The Bush administration has reversed course and decided to include Israel in planned talks on a worldwide system of ballistic missile defense, to the relief of pro-Israel advocates.
“It is our hope and expectation that Israel will participate fully in this initiative” on “international cooperation on global defenses,” wrote Secretary of State James Baker in a recent letter to Robert Lifton, president of the American Jewish Congress.
Lifton had protested the exclusion of Israel from U.S.-sponsored talks to include NATO allies, Australia, Japan and South Korea.
This week he said he was relieved by Baker’s reassurances.
State Department and Pentagon representatives said they could offer no explanation for the original omission of Israel.
But other sources say it was another example of the administration’s insensitivity to Israel’s security needs.
It may also have been an apparent fallout over unsubstantiated allegations that Israel has shared Patriot missile technology with China.
They also said it may have been an effort on the administration’s part to avoid jeopardizing the fragile Arab-Israeli peace talks.
U.S. Rep. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), a member of the Armed Services Committee, had also challenged Israel’s exclusion from the talks.
In a letter to Baker, he wrote, “The direct threat to Israel from attacks by ballistic missiles is far greater than any other nation on earth.
“As the only democratic friend of the United States that has suffered unprovoked, deadly attacks from Third World ballistic missiles, it is very important that the administration include Israel” in the talks, wrote Kyl.
In his letter, Kyl noted that the original goal of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was to explore ” ‘a ballistic missile defense system for the U.S. and its allies’ and Israel was never singled out in those reports as a non-ally.”