Congressional Arms Control Is Freeze for Arabs and Increase for Israel

By Wamsted, Dennis J. | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 1991 | Go to article overview

Congressional Arms Control Is Freeze for Arabs and Increase for Israel


Wamsted, Dennis J., Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


The congressional double standard on Mideast issues resurfaced full-force this spring, as senators and representatives introduced proposals either to ban outright or delay indefinitely all arms sales to countries in the Middle East -- except for Israel.

For example, Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), introduced legislation to ban US sales to the region unless the administration negotiated an agreement with supplier nations -- including China, France, Great Britain and the Soviet Union -- to restrict regional sales within two months. A similar provision was subsequently added to the foreign aid authorization measure, H.R. 2508, approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee in early June. Berman, a staunch supporter of Israel, sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee.

However, while the committee was approving this moratorium measure, panel member Rep. MelLevine (D-CA), another outspoken supporter of Israel, was badgering the Defense Department for not transferring some $700 million in weaponry to Israel from the Pentagon's excess inventory. Levine also blasted the department during an early May hearing for not beginning to stockpile $300 million in DOD equipment in Israel for use in future emergencies, as Congress had authorized in the fiscal 1991 foreign aid appropriations bill. Unless the administration began moving promptly on these provisions, Levine reportedly told Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Jock Covey, he would add language to subsequent legislation to make transfers mandatory.

DOD Compliance

Less than a month later, Defense Secretary Richard Cheney announced Israel would soon receive 10 used F-15 jet fighters from the US inventory in Europe. In addition, Cheney said the US would continue funding the development of the Arrow antimissile system. The fighters, built in the 1970s and subsequently upgraded, are worth roughly $65 million, according to DOD. US funding for the Arrow, which has already topped $126 million, will total approximately $210 million over the next four years.

At roughly the same time, the department also announced that it had begun shipping some $100 million in military equipment to Israel for pre-positioning. Defense officials have said that the equipment would likely include materiel such as ammunition and spare parts.

In short, when many congressmen talk about ending the Mideast arms race, they are referring solely to US sales to its Arab allies such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia. By not including Israel, they virtually doom any arms control initiatives to failure.

The Two Sides Of Foreign Aid

Although final congressional approval of a foreign aid authorization measure is problematic -- Congress has not completed work on this politically unpopular legislation since 1985 -- the House Foreign Affairs Committee has established some Mideast policy parameters to be wrapped into a catch-all appropriations bill if Congress again fails to enact authorizing legislation. …

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