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U.S. Indicates It Has Not Reneged on Promise to Israel to Provide It with Parts for Its New War Plan

May 3, 1983
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The Reagan Administration maintained today that the changes it made last week in the export licenses for components needed by Israel to build the Lavie, its new jet fighter, met Israel’s request while safeguarding U.S. technological security.

“The licenses were amended to reflect the greatest specificity and define more acurately what was contained in the license applications,” State Department spokesman Alan Romberg said in reading a prepared statement. “We believe we have now met the request put to us by the Israelis. At the same time, we have safeguarded critical U.S. technology.”

But in Israel today, Defense Ministry spokesman Nachman Shai charged that the Administration had reneged on its promise to Israel. Shai charged that the Pentagon has raised obstacles to the transfer of the information on the components needed to build the Israeli plane.

Romberg said seven export licenses were issued last week and they included five licenses for the wing and tail composite design, one for fly-by-wire computer control system, and one for the serve-actuator system that controls the flight control surfaces.

“These are highly technical matters, and we have had subsequent discussions with the companies and Israeli officials further on the defining and clarifying the items to be included,” Romberg said. He added that “subsequently” the licenses were changed to provide “greater specificity.” When asked to explain the changes, Romberg said he couldn’t, adding they were highly technical.

Some unnamed Israeli officials today blamed the changes on Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger who is believed still opposed to allow Israel to have the American technology it needs for the planes. It is no secret here that President Reagan overruled Weinberger and supported Secretary of State George Shultz in approving the export licenses long sought by Israel.

Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Arens alluded to this when he revealed the U.S. decision on the export licenses during an appearance on “This Week with David Brinkley” on ABC-TV April 17. Arens said he was “grateful” to Reagan for the decision and “particularly grateful” to Shultz “who I know has worked hard to bring about this release.” He did not mention Weinberger.

Romberg said today he did not see that the issue over the licenses would have “any impact” on Shultz’s present mission in the Middle East in which he is trying to obtain agreement on Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon.

But questions have been raised again in Washington on whether the Administration still lacks cohesion in foreign policy as demonstrated by Weinberger once again bringing up an issue that rankles the Israelis at the very time that Shultz is trying to win their support for an agreement in Lebanon.

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