U.S.: Limit Weapons Exports to Problematic Countries

The U.S. administration has asked the government to reduce the authority of the Defense Ministry to authorize Israel security exports to countries Washington deems "problematic."

In discussions with representatives from the U.S. Departments of State and Defense, Israel was asked to increase the involvement of other ministries, especially the Foreign Ministry and the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry in the supervision of permits for the sale of sensitive security equipment and technology to a number of countries, especially China.

American officials met yesterday in Washington with an Israeli team headed by Dr. Zvi Stauber, former Israeli ambassador to Britain and currently head of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.

The American request regarding permits for security exports is one of four elements of the crisis which has characterized relations between the security establishments of the two counties ever since the Pentagon expressed anger at Israel's export of Harpies - sophisticated air-to-ground munitions - to China.

A second issue is the ostracization of Defense Ministry director general Amos Yaron and his colleagues by U.S. defense officials in Tel Aviv and New York, whom senior Pentagon officials say led them astray about the issue.

The third issue is the clarification of the history of security exports to China, which the Defense Ministry says almost completely stopped during the past few years, and the fourth issue involves the delay of sensitive American technology transfers to Israel.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who was asked by friends in Israel to intervene personally to resolve the crisis, has preferred to ignore the requests. Despite the tension between the Pentagon and the Ministry of Defense, which has also cast a chill over relations between other parts of the Bush administration and Israel, joint maneuvers between the U.S. army and the IDF are proceeding as usual.

Officials from the Defense Ministry and elsewhere in the government say the fact that Minister Shaul Mofaz refraining from replacing Yaron has caused Israel political and security damage. They say it was a missed opportunity for Israel to encourage positive responses from the U.S. to Israeli requests, ahead of the evacuation of the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria.

Sources at Tel Aviv University were surprised at Dr. Stauber's willingness to undertake a mission on behalf of the Defense Ministry, since the Jaffee Center makes an effort to downplay its ties to the security establishment.