Freeze: Pentagon not talking to Israelis after China standoff
SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Thursday, December 30, 2004
Israel has failed to end a crisis in military relations with the United States regarding defense sales to China.
Israeli officials said the U.S. Defense Department has boycotted the Defense Ministry because of Israeli weapons projects in China. They said the ministry as well as leading Israeli politicians have failed to resolve the crisis.
Defense Ministry Director-General Amos Yaron briefed the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Wednesday.
Citing national security, he refused to provide details of the China deal. But he said he hoped the crisis would be resolved by March 2005. He did not elaborate.
Four parliamentarians walked out of the meeting in protest. Earlier, Yaron provided details to a subcommitee on intelligence.
"If we provide details of the Israeli-U.S. episode, within minutes it will be leaked to the press," a senior defense official said.
Yaron said that the crisis erupted despite his contention that Israel did not violated any commitments to Washington. Yaron said the Pentagon has been angered by the supply of replacements parts for an existing weapons system sold to China.
"We did not break any American law and no policy," Yaron said. Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said bilateral trade has reached $1.6 billion a year. Other officials put the figure at $2 billion.
"I would like to leave it in the hands of the two governments," Shalom said. "I am sure that we'll come to an appropriate solution that will be achieved in a short time."
Officials said the system was the Harpy strike unmanned aerial vehicle, with an endurance of seven hours and a range of 550 kilometers. Israel sold more than 40 Harpy UAVs to China in 1995 and the platform was returned to Israel for an upgrade.
For its part, China has rejected the prospect that Israel would agree to withhold the Harpy UAVs from Beijing. Chinese deputy prime minister said Israeli-U.S. cooperation does not harm any third state.
In 2002, Israel Aircraft Industries supplied upgrade kits for the Harpy deployed by China. In 2004, China requested additional kits, something the Defense Ministry rejected.
Yaron was quoted as saying justifying Israeli relations with China. He was said to have told the committee that the United States must not interfere in Israeli affairs.