Israel Denies Report’s Suggestion It Shared Arrow Missile Technology

Israel is strongly denying suggestions in a congressional report that it might have transferred U.S. technology connected to the Arrow missile development project to third parties.

A report released Monday by the General Accounting Office warned of the possibility that some sort of technology transfer either had occurred or could occur without closer U.S. monitoring of the U.S.-financed project.

News of the report caused a stir in Israel, where the Arrow missile, now in its development stage, is regarded as an important potential future defense against ballistic missiles aimed at Israel by hostile countries.

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.), a critic of continued U.S. funding for the Arrow missile, requested the GAO report in March 1992. Byrd serves as chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, which, among its many other functions, appropriates aid to Israel.

“I was concerned whether this program was the best approach to achieving the objectives of both our nations, given U.S. fiscal constraints, non-proliferation goals and other national security interests,” Byrd said in a statement released last month.

The GAO report focused primarily on costs and on U.S. monitoring of the joint U.S.-Israeli missile program, not on technology transfer.

But it did raise questions about the potential for a technology transfer by Israel, concluding that the U.S. government had “exercised inadequate control over the technology and funds it has supplied to the Arrow missile program.”

The unclassified version of the GAO report gave few specifics relating to the possibility of an Israeli technology transfer.

But an earlier, classified version of the report, distributed last month to congressional and Executive Branch officials, apparently included information on “the question of Israel’s record of unauthorized sales of U.S. defense articles and technologies.”

Based on the report’s findings, Byrd is calling on the Pentagon to conduct a review of the Arrow project, similar to reviews conducted on U.S. weapons systems. The senator has introduced legislation mandating that the Pentagon conduct such a review by next April 1.

VEHEMENT DENIAL FROM RABIN

Pro-Israel sources are playing down the report’s significance and say the Arrow missile project is not in danger of losing its funding on Capitol Hill. They note that the report devoted most of its criticism to U.S. monitoring policies and not to Israeli actions.

But the report has apparently touched a raw nerve in Israel, which has been stung by similar allegations in the past.

The Israeli government, from Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on down, has vehemently denied any possible impropriety in Israel’s use of U.S. technology.

Rabin said Tuesday that Israel would not violate the terms of the agreement with the United States on the high-tech Arrow missile project.

Israel will stick by its “commitment to the United States under U.S. law vis-a-vis what is allowed and what is not allowed,” the prime minister said.

Israel’s Defense Ministry also denied that any technology transfer had occurred.

“Israel has neither diverted nor transferred any U.S. technology or any information” generated in the Arrow program to “any third party,” the ministry said in a statement Monday.

“Israel has meticulously adhered to the terms and conditions of the bilateral U.S.-Israel” understandings “concerning Arrow and Arrow continuation experiments, and to all export licenses concerning know-how and technologies originating in the U.S.,” said the statement, which was released here by the Israeli Embassy.

This is not the first time Israel has had to deal with the sensitive issue of its use of advanced U.S. weapons technology.

Last year, the Bush administration charged that Israel had illegally provided China with U.S. technology relating to the Patriot missile defense system.

A State Department investigation later found no evidence of such a transfer, and the administration was forced to apologize.

But the very suggestion of such a transfer cast a shadow on U.S.-Israeli relations and raised questions in the minds of some about how far Israel could be trusted with valuable U.S. technology.

(Contributing to this report was JTA correspondent Cynthia Mann in Jerusalem.)

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