Effort to block Saudi arms deal is doomed

An effort led by Jewish Democrats in Congress to block the Bush administration’s planned sale of arms to Saudi Arabia appears to be doomed.

The Bush administration on Monday formally announced the proposed $120 million sale of 900 Joint Direct Attack Munitions. The announcement was timed for the Saudi leg of President Bush’s Middle East tour.

The JDAMs are components that add deadly accuracy to long-range missiles.

U.S. Reps. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) and Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) asked colleagues to sign on by Tuesday to a letter to Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, asking him to convene the committee to block the arms sale.

“Chairman Lantos does not intend to ask the committee to consider any resolutions of disapproval on this matter,” a Lantos spokeswoman, Lynne Weill, told JTA when asked about the letter.

That effectively kills its chances. With Congress having 30 days to reject the sale, its foes must run their opposition through a committee. Lantos, perhaps Israel’s best friend among committee chairmen, was their best chance.

Opponents of the sale have expressed concerns that the arms could fall into hostile hands in the event of upheaval in Saudi Arabia.

Bush made the sale a centerpiece of his administration’s efforts to create an alliance that would confront Iranian hegemony in the region and bolster his bid for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal by the end of this year.

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