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Rabin Gets Promise from Aspin for Continued U.S. Defense Help

During an important meeting at the Pentagon, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin succeeded in getting a commitment from Defense Secretary Les Aspin that the United States will continue to help Israel maintain its strong defense capability.

The meeting between Rabin and Aspin, which took place Monday, lasted about three hours and followed upon a similarly successful meeting last Friday between Rabin and President Clinton at the White House.

At this difficult time in the Middle East peace process, when Israelis are becoming increasingly nervous about the costs of peace, it was important for Rabin that he return home with a demonstration of tangible American support.

The United States reportedly offered to sell Rabin the advanced F-15E attack jet, which would contribute to modernizing the Israeli air force.

But Rabin’s spokesman, Oded Ben Ami, had no comment when asked about the sale of the advanced fighter to Israel.

Rabin told reporters Monday that he hoped a decision would be made this week on the types of planes Israel could buy from the United States.

One factor governing Israel’s decision is the cost of the various planes under consideration, including F-15s and F-16s.

Aspin told Rabin that the United States is committed to helping Israel maintain its qualitative edge and its strong defensive capability, a Pentagon spokesman said.

In addition, Aspin and Rabin discussed ways of cooperating on new systems that could help Israel defend itself against ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction.

Rabin also held meetings Monday with members of Congress and with the top members of the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee, with which Rabin has sparred in the recent past.

AIPAC President Steve Grossman described their 45-minute meeting as “superb” and said the overall tone of Rabin’s visit “couldn’t have been more warm.”

He also said that Rabin’s visit has been extremely successful and that the prime minister had managed to further the already good relations between the United States and Israel.

“Whatever he could have done in the past 72 hours, he did, and he felt very good about it,” Grossman said. “There’s no question it was a very successful 72 hours for him, for Israel, and for the peace process.”

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