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Israel Pondering Steps to Counteract U.S. Arms to Saudis

March 16, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Israel has not yet received official confirmation from the U.S. that sophisticated AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) aircraft are to be supplied to the Saudi Arabians. Naftali Lavie, the Foreign Ministry spoke-man who accompanied Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir on his recent talks in Washington, said, however, that Shamir had been told that America was planning to supply additional alert systems to the Saudis.

” We were not informed on specifics but told that America intended to supply more equipment to increase Saudi Arabia’s defense capability, including alert systems, “he said. ” We understood that this might be something like the AWACS,” he added. Lavie said, however, that Israel will await official confirmation of the reports before deciding what steps to take to counter this new supply which would expose Israel completely to Saudi aerial surveillance and limit its mobility.

Shamir had expressed to American officials Israel’s concern over the arms supply, pointing out potential dangers to Israel from such advanced weapons being passed on by Saudi Arabia to other ” confrontation ” states. More weapons to an area as unstable as the Arab world did not help peace and stability in the region, Shamir told the Americans. Lavie noted that “apparently his warning had no impact because just as we came home we heard of the new planned supply.”

The Foreign Ministry is also studying an announcement by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher that high-level contacts may be opened later this year between Britain and the Palestine Liberation Organization, Lavie said. He noted that Britain appeared to be reacting to America’s lack of enthusiasm for British and European initiatives in the Middle East and had decided to “go it alone.” (See separate story from London.)


Meanwhile, Moshe Arens, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, said in a radio interview that the supply of arms to Saudi Arabia form the U.S. and Europe represented a grave danger for Israel. “Some people in Washington may see these arms as a great danger to the Soviet Union and that this is the way to halt Soviet penetration of the area.

“I am not of that opinion, I find it very difficult to believe and assign almost zero possibility

to a scenario in which the Saudi air force will wage battle against the Soviet air force, but there is a not insignificant probability that all this equipment will be used against Israel.”

Arens said the American supply of weapons would only encourage the Europeans to sell ever even more of their own military hardware to the Saudis.

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