The carter Administration is unveiling a massive arms program for three of Israel’s Arab neighbors that includes about $3.5 billion in credits for Egypt, up to 200 tanks of the M-60 class for Jordan, and advanced munitions for Saudi Arabia, informed sources reported.
Arising from this preparation in enhancing U.S. military relations with the three Arab countries is an as yet unanswered questions: What plans does the Administration have for Israel in terms of additional credits, for economic and military support and the balance of power theory in the Near East?
Israel indicated early last fall that it needed about $3.4 billion in overall U.S. assistance to help meet increased costs resulting from inflation and the growth of power on its borders This assessment was ridiculed then in high quarters as unrealistic but the programming for Israel’s neighbors now indicates that the Israeli figure has practicality.
For the current fiscal year, Israel is scheduled to receive $1.8 billion in economic and military aid. The military package for Egypt, which requires Congressional approval, was informally presented to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at a closed meeting Dec. 5 by Harold H. Saunders, Assistant Secretary of State for. Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs. Saunders reportedly testified that the Iranian situation made it more important than ever to support Egyptian President Sadat’s government and weld a long-term security relationship with Egypt.
CONCERN AND SKEPTICISM
His testimony was received with “concern and skepticism” by all of the committee’s eight or nine members present, according to the informed sources. Senators present included Committee chairman Frank Church (D.Idaho); Jacob Javits (R.NY), the ranking minority member; Paul Sarbannes (D.Md.); and Joseph Biden (D.Del.), who have expressed themselves most strongly on the central theme that delivering such quantities of new weapons to Egypt would risk a duplication of the U.S. error in calculating the Shah of Iran would be a powerful and unshakable ally by supplying his government with a huge arsenal.
Last year, the Carter Administration provided Egypt with 50 F-5E warplanes. This was part of the $2.6 billion warplane package that included Israel and Saudi Arabia. Early this year, the Carter Administration allocated $1.5 billion in weaponry as part of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. Israel received $3 billion in that program in connection with the treaty, all of it for shifting its bases from the Sinai to the Negev.
Last month, the Administration informed Congress it was selling Saudi Arabia $200 million in advanced munitions for delivery in 1980. These include lasers and cluster bombs and Sidewinder and Maverick missiles. Congress still has time to veto this program but indications are it will not try to do so.
Although Jordan has rejected the Camp David accords and propagandizes against entering the Egyptian-Israeli-American negotiations on autonomy for the West Bank and Gaza, King Hussein’s government is earmarked to receive tanks that Saudi Arabia will buy for it. Jordan has already contracted to buy Centurion tanks from Britain. Analysts here said the question emerging from these purchases is why Jordan is engaged in this buildup.
Analysts here noted that Egypt has a hostile force on its western border in Libya while Hussein’s government may be facing trouble from Syria or Iraq or from among the Palestinian Arabs within its own border. It was noted that when the State Department issued its “travel advisory” two weeks ago to Americans not to go to a dozen Moslem countries, most of them Arab, because of the Iranian crisis, it did not include Jordan, Saudi Arabia or Egypt.
How the program will shape up may depend to a large extent on the results of a visit David Mc Gufford, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, is to make in two weeks to these three countries and Israel.
KNESSET UNIT TO DISCUSS NEW ARMS DEAL
(In Jerusalem, it was reported today that Premier Menachem Begin is scheduled to meet this week with the Knesset Security and Foreign Affairs Committee to discuss the implications of the reported new arms deal. The meeting is scheduled to take place at the request of committee chairman Moshe Arens. By this afternoon there was no official Israeli reaction to the reports from Washington. Both political circles here and the Defense Ministry were waiting for official clarifications from Washington. Unofficially, political sources were quoted to express surprise at the scope of the reported arms deal, although, they said, the actual arms deals in the making were known to Israel for some time.)
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.