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THE ISRAEL REPORT

May/June 2000
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Israel seeks alternatives as US freezes supply process for new military equipment and demands veto on all Israel export sales

By Amir Oren Ha'aretz Correspondent - Ha'aretz 28 May 2000

Israel is considering acquiring Russian-made Kamov fighter helicopters and European-made Airbus transport planes for reconnaissance purposes rather than U.S.-made aircraft in reaction to de facto limitations the United States government has recently imposed on the transfer of military equipment to the Israel Defense Forces.

Defense officials are also urging Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who also holds the Defense portfolio, to strongly reject American demands that the United States receive prior notification - and therefore a veto right - on every Israeli arms export deal.

The U.S. departments of State and Defense have in recent months frozen the usual procurement procedures Israel follows for military equipment which it receives under the terms of its military aid package from the United States. The Israeli air force wants to use some of the funding to acquire civilian Boeing or Gulfstream aircraft and fit them with electronic reconnaissance equipment.

But the Americans are preventing the Israelis from asking the makers for a price estimate for necessary adjustments that would have to be made to the aircraft. A deal for acquiring Apache Longbow fighter helicopters is also suffering delay because the Americans do not want programs for the aircraft's navigation and weapons system to be released to Israel.

In view of the obstruction, senior defense officials say the air force should instead acquire Kamov helicopters and European transport planes.

Senior defense officials are concerned about the tendency of Washington to try to tie Israel's hands in both importing and exporting military equipment. This concern has been heightened by the demands (first reported in Ha'aretz last week by correspondent Aluf Benn) that Washington wants Israel to inform it of every export deal - not just the resale of original U.S. weaponry, as required by law - including of Israeli-made weapons.

Israeli officials are deeply concerned that this demand, which was caused by Israel's controversial deal to sell AWACS surveillance planes to China, will bring about the gradual destruction of Israel's military industry.

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