The Israeli government appears divided over how to react to the flurry of charges in Washington that Israel transferred American weapons or technology to third countries without approval.
A 15-member team of U.S. Army inspectors arrived Saturday night to investigate the alleged unauthorized sale of Patriot anti-missile technology to China.
While Defense Minister Moshe Arens and other officials stress that Israel is cooperating fully, there is beneath the surface a feeling of cold fury in some government circles that an orchestrated campaign of Israel-bashing is under way by elements in the U.S. administration.
Government officials apparently were not mollified by assurances U.S. Army Secretary Michael Stone gave in Tel Aviv to Arens and to the Israel Defense Force chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Ehud Barak, that the recent upsets have not eroded the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security.
Stone thanked Arens on behalf of his government for Israel’s cooperation with the investigating team. Arens replied tartly that there was no reason not to cooperate fully because “Israel has nothing to hide.”
Arens, who just returned from Washington, reportedly told the Cabinet on Sunday that his discussions there with Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and others did not improve the situation.
He said the accusations against Israel have caused lasting damage to its reputation in the United States.
TIME FOR ‘STRAIGHT TALK’ WITH U.S.
Arens bristled over new allegations, attributed to unnamed U.S. sources, that Israel not only sold the Chinese Patriot technology but conducted experts from Beijing on an inspection tour of a Patriot site in Israel.
Like the earlier charges, they are entirely groundless, the defense minister said.
Foreign Minister David Levy did not minimize the grave state of relations with Washington. Nevertheless, he urged restraint in the way the government portrays the situation.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir has adopted the same tone. But other ministers are unabashedly accusing the United States of bad faith.
One of the most outspoken is David Magen, the minister of economics and planning, who denounced what he called the administration’s “cruel and false accusations” as hostile acts aimed at undermining Israel.
Magen called for “straight talk” to Washington. “Purim’s over — it is time to take off the mask,” he said.
He told reporters afterward that he had definite ideas to propose as to how the government should face off the Americans but did not want to disclose them at this time.
Some political commentators speculated that Likud plans to use its confrontation with Washington as an election campaign asset, boasting that unlike the labor Party, it proudly stands up to American pressure.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.