The Bush administration is pressuring Israel to cancel or abandon a series of military projects in China.
Israeli and U.S. officials said the Defense Department, supported by the
White House, has relayed a series of demands meant to significantly reduce
Israeli military projects in China. The Pentagon effort also sought to halt
Israeli negotiations with China on new systems for Beijing, Middle East Newsline reported.
"For years, the administration and Congress have been looking for a
solid Israeli link with Chinese arms programs," a U.S. official said. "The
administration has found it and now wants to roll back Israeli defense
relations with China."
"The effort is not only about Israel," another official said. "The
pressure that we bring on Israel will deter the European Union from becoming
military suppliers of China."
The Pentagon campaign has focused on the cancellation of Israel's Harpy
armed unmanned aerial vehicle program as well as the severing of
negotiations for the Heron UAV for China. Officials said the Pentagon has
demanded that unidentified command and control projects for China also be
The officials said the U.S. demand would, in effect, terminate Israel's
defense relations with Beijing. They said the Pentagon effort was meant to
force China to switch suppliers after Beijing would conclude that Israel
could no longer honor military or security contracts.
On Dec. 17, the White House urged Israel and the European Union to take
"a responsible approach" regarding the sale of defense equipment and
technology to China. A White House statement said the United States has
approached both Israel and the EU out of concern that either would sell
defense equipment to China.
"We have long expressed our concerns about the sale of defense equipment
and technology to China," the White House said. "We continue to raise those
concerns with our friends and allies and others, and look for them to take a
Officials said China has sent an unspecified number of Harpy UAVs to
Israel for overhaul or upgrade. They said the Pentagon has demanded that
Israel's Defense Ministry refuse to return the Harpy platforms.
The Pentagon demand would comprise a violation of Israel's decade-old
contract with Beijing, the officials said. But they said the administration
could not allow China to deploy the Harpy UAVs for any attack on Taiwan or
nearby U.S. forces.
The United States has also demanded that Israel Aircraft Industries
terminate contacts with China for the proposed sale of the Heron. The Heron
has been deemed a strategic long-range UAV and officials said the platform
was demonstrated for China over the last year.
Officials said IAI also briefed Chinese military commanders and defense
officials in Beijing on the Heron. IAI, Israel's largest defense contractor,
also manufactures the Harpy as well as the Phalon airborne early-warning
In 2000, the United States pressured Israel to suspend the sale of at
least one Phalcon AEW system to China. Four years later, IAI sold three
Phalcon systems to India in a $1.1 billion deal.
The Pentagon demands on Israel appear to stem from recommendations
issued by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a panel
mandated by Congress. In its 2004 report, the commission called on the
United States to "restrict foreign defense contractors who sell sensitive
military-use technology or weapons systems to China from participating in
U.S. defense-related cooperative research, development, and production
programs." The United States has been one of IAI's leading markets.
The commission also recommended that Congress request the Pentagon to
provide a comprehensive annual report to Congress on foreign military sales
to China, "particularly from Russia and Israel." The EU was not cited.
Israeli officials said the Defense Ministry has not banned local defense
contractors from marketing non-lethal systems and platforms in China. In a
policy that has sparked opposition within the government, the Defense
Ministry has aimed to seek U.S. approval for Chinese defense deals only
after a commitment by Beijing to order the Israeli equipment.
"These sales [to China] have not only hurt our relations with the United
States, but they have hurt defense relations with other Asian nations,
particularly India and Japan," an Israeli defense source said. "After all,
India has also purchased the Heron."
Israeli and U.S. officials agreed that Israel's continued defense
relations with China has angered both senior Pentagon officials as well key
members of the House of Representatives. They said many of these Americans
have lost their trust in Israeli defense officials.
"Some of these Pentagon officials are extremely pro-Israel," an official
said. "Now, they can't even look at some of the people in the [Israeli]
Defense Ministry who treat the Americans as idiots."
Yoram Ettinger, a former Israeli consul-general with close ties to the
Bush administration, said Jerusalem and Washington must draft a long-term
accord that would guide Israeli military exports. Ettinger said such an
arrangement would be based on a guaranteed level of U.S. military aid to and
defense research and development projects with Israel.
"The key would be to ensure mutual national interests, maintaining
transparency and ensuring Israel's qualitative edge," Ettinger said.