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In ’77, ‘Time’ openly questioned military aid to Israel

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This is so last century. Check out Time Magazine in 1977 getting down and dirty with Israel over weapons manufacturing. ‘Unique relationship showing strains’ ‘U.S. decides to reduce massive military aid to Israel, hoping  to press Jerusalem peace negotiations’ ‘Washington convinced Israel has more sophisticated equipment than it needs’, and that’s just part of the intro. Fair use prevents us from copying more than a smidgen of this chock-full 3 page article but go read the whole thing. This kind of forthright journalism about our relationship with Israel is completely missing from our mainstream media today.

This unique relationship has suddenly begun to show strains. For one thing, the U.S. has decided to reduce massive military aid to Israel, hoping thereby to press Jerusalem into productive peace negotiations with the Arabs. Beyond that, Washington is also convinced that Israel now has more sophisticated equipment than it really needs.

That approach coincides with a subtle campaign of criticism against Israel by some U.S. arms manufacturers who once were among its staunchest friends. The American companies, restive under export restrictions imposed at home, are resentful of competition from Israel’s burgeoning arms industry. In the past few weeks, operating on tips, several columnists and trade publications have accused the Israelis of stealing U.S. technology and “reinventing” it in made-in-Israel weapons.

Moreover, they charge that Israel is selling this modified equipment to third nations, including certain countries with which U.S. companies are barred by law from doing business. One case was the purchase by Honduras last year of eight French-built Mystère fighters, which the Israelis had equipped with U.S. jet engines. A more serious complaint comes from Raytheon Co., which accuses the Israelis of scavenging an air-to-air missile called Shafrir out of Raytheon’s Sidewinder—specifically, by stealing Sidewinder’s infra-red guidance system —and then selling it to Chile.

In an interview with TIME’s Donald Neff and David Halevy in Tel Aviv last week, Defense Minister Shimon Peres insisted that Israel’s arms practices were entirely proper. The Mystère sale to Honduras was an honest mistake, he claimed. Israel had paid cash for the engines, the planes were obsolete, and no one expected the U.S. to protest such a sale. The Shafrir, he explained, was developed and used in combat three years before Israel saw its first Sidewinder. “The only American piece of equipment in the Shafrir is a small battery that you can buy on the open market. Had we known it would cause problems, we would have used our own.” In any case, the Israelis argue —and U.S. experts agree—that the Shafrir is actually a better weapon than the Sidewinder, principally because it uses a bigger warhead and a longer-burning propellant charge.

Deadly Bastard. Arms for export have rapidly become a mainstay of the Israeli economy. Sales abroad have jumped from $38 million in 1970 to $340 million last year (v. $12 billion U.S. sales), and now represent 45% of Israel’s arms output; this year the total is expected to reach $450 million. Israel deals with at least 16 client nations, including South Africa, Taiwan, Kenya and Greece, whose purchases range from the small but efficient Uzi submachine gun and Galil assault rifle (based on the Soviet AK-47 rifle) to the battle-tested Gabriel surface-to-surface missile. Exports may climb far higher if the Israelis market, at $4.2 million a copy, their new Kfir C-2 fighter, a deadly bastard sired from a French Mirage airframe and a U.S. General Electric J-79 engine.

(Hat tip Kate)

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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