Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Israeli Arms Transfers - the Story Behind the Story

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Israeli Arms Transfers - the Story Behind the Story

Article excerpt

THE flurry of news reports alleging improper Israeli technology transfers is disturbing not only for the stories' contents, but also for their damaging effects on United States officials and US allies without any public airing of the evidence.

The public version of State Department Inspector General Sherman Funk's report on defense trade controls is a case in point. The audit itself provides absolutely no proof of unauthorized Israeli activity, referring instead to other "reports" of "significant" Israeli violations. However, an interagency intelligence review, working from much of the same intelligence available to Mr. Funk, found that "almost all" of the reports of Israeli violations "were not credible." The bottom line is that, to date, no report of Israeli violations has been publicly substantiated.

Nonetheless, accounts continue to surface about improper Israeli transfers of technology and equipment. On April 8, the Washington Times reported yet another leaked intelligence report. This time two Chinese diplomats supposedly told Americans that Israel had transferred Patriot technology to China. This new leak was almost certainly intended to counter the clean bill of health on the Patriot affair issued to Israel by the State Department on April 2.

Without seeing the evidence, it is impossible for Israel or for American officials impugned in the press to definitively refute the charges or for objective observers to judge their credibility.

Like many such narrowly focused audits, the Funk report fails to put the issue of technology transfers into proper context. Unfortunately, technology theft among allies is commonplace. But even during the height of the cold war, the US did little to pursue tough export controls. Given Israel's policy of sharing much of its own technology with the US, it would have been natural for the Bush administration to overlook alleged Israeli violations - as it had overlooked many other infractions by NATO allies and sales of sensitive technology to states like Iraq.

But that is not what happened. When he took office in 1989, Richard Clarke, the current assistant secretary of state for politico-military affairs, significantly improved enforcement of export controls. …

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