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Knesset, in a 88-3 Vote, Opposes Sale of U.S. Arms to Jordan

February 16, 1982
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Knesset, in a display of bi-partisan unity, served notice today that Israel would not tolerate the supply of advanced U.S. weaponry to Jordan. By a vote of 88-3, with six abstentions, it went on record as opposed to the sale of Hawk mobile air defense systems and F-16 jet fighters proposed by U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger who visited Jordan last week.

Addressing the chamber, Premier Menachem Begin appealed directly to President Reagan as “Israel’s friend” not to permit such a sale to go through. He recalled that when he visited Washington last September, Reagan assured him that the U.S. was committed to maintaining Israel’s “qualitative edge” in the Middle East military equation. Reagan reaffirmed that commitment after the Administration won a grueling battle with Congress to approve the sale of AWACS reconnaissance aircraft to Saudi Arabia last November.


Begin referred to the combined quantitative superiority of the Arab States which have refused to join in the Middle East peace process. He noted that Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Iraq have between them 9000 tanks, 1400 fighter aircraft and 6000 artillery pieces. “Will President Reagan under present circumstances, permit selling to Jordan, a confrontation state, F-16s which could reach our population centers in a matter of minutes?”Begin asked.

He also lashed out at Weinberger for not including Israel on the itinerary of his most recent Middle East trip. The Defense Secretary visited Saudi Arabia and Oman in addition to Jordan, but by-passed Israel.

Shimon Peres, chairman of the opposition Labor Party, warned that the projected sale of mobile missiles and F-16s to Jordan could only aggravate an already tense and complicated situation. “Weinberger did not demand that Jordan turn in the direction of peace. Instead, he offered advanced weapons designed for war,” Peres said. Begin contended that Jordan wanted the weapons for the specific purpose of making war on Israel.


The Knesset debate, called on motions submitted by both coalition and opposition members, followed a Cabinet session yesterday at which Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Defense Minister Ariel Sharon briefed their colleagues on the dangers posed by the sale of sophisticated American arms to Jordan.

This would introduce a “new and dangerous element to the region,” Shamir said. “This weaponry would amount to a direct threat to Israel’s security and would not only not contribute to peace in the region but would endanger peace,” he warned.

Sharon said Arab forces on the eastern front now had 8000 tanks between them and this would increase to 15,000-17,000 in the next 5-6 years. He told the Cabinet that unlike its response to the AWACS sale to Saudi Arabia, Israel now should “act resolutely and in good time to foil a U.S.-Jordan arms transaction.” He said Israel could no longer afford to compete in a Mideast arms race because it did not have the money to buy either quantitative or qualitative superiority each time an Arab state expanded its arsenal.

According to Sharon, the projected arms deal would enable Jordanian artillery and ground-to-ground missiles to bombard densely populated regions of Israel without fear of reprisal from Israel’s air force because of the Hawk missile system.


Shamir said he was particularly concerned that the Reagan Administration has not yet publicly dissociated itself from Weinberger’s proposals and observed that it was unclear just what the American view was on this issue. Israeli fears were heightened by remarks attributed to a “senior official” who accompanied the Defense Secretary on his Middle East trip that U.S. policy would be “redirected” away from Israel and toward the moderate Arab states.

Although Secretary of State Alexander Haig denied yesterday that any such move was contemplated, the first task of Israel’s new Ambassador to Washington, Moshe Arens, will be to find out exactly what the American position is, Shamir said today.

Meanwhile, Sen. John Glenn (D. Ohio) said on his arrival here on a visit last night that he did not believe there has been any change in the U.S.-Israel relationship. Glenn, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also told reporters at Ben Gurion Airport that there was nothing final about the proposed arms sales to Jordan.

“Any arms sale like this, even if it is requested or proposed (by the Administration) will have to be weighed very, very carefully. We get sales of that size. They all come before the Foreign Relations Committee and we look at them very carefully, ” Glenn said.

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