Correspondents' Correspondence Arming Israel's Enemies



...Correspondents' Correspondence BRIEF TAKEOUTS OF MORE THAN PERSONAL INTEREST FROM LETTERS AND OTHER COMMUNICATIONS RECEIVED BY THE EDITORS Arming Israel's Enemies Tel Avrv—Israelis are still smarting from what they look upon as the failure of the Begin government' s first encounter with the Reagan Administration Even more, they are outraged over a recent policy shift by the Social Democrats in Bonn Foreign Minister Yitzchak Shamir visited Washington last month in the hope of persuading the United States to abide by a Carter Administration promise m 1978 that 62 F-15s being sold to Saudi Arabia would not be upgraded at a future date, thereby posing a direct threat to Israel Instead, Secretary of State Alexander M Haig told Shamir the situation in the Persian Gulf had changed, making the sale of the additional equipment necessary, and the Secretary sought to soften the blow by offering to sell Israel another 15 F-15s Adding to the impact of the rebuff was the lact thai il came soon after the news thai West Gei manv was set lously cxploung ihe possibility of selling Riyadh 300 Lcopar d 11 tanks People here die ol couise always sensitive to major aims deals with the Arabs, especially "Rciectiontsts' who condemn theCamp David accords or any peaceful solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict The Saudis, among the most extreme opponents of Israel, have acquired an image of " moderation" by increasing oil production Their repeated calls for jihad, or holy war, to "liberate" Jerusalem and the "Arab lands of Palestine,' tend to be dismissed in the West as another bit of rhetoric But the call was included in the "Mecca Declaration" issued at last December's meeting of Islamic countries, and it is being taken to heart by millions of devout Moslems The subsequent reports from West Germany thus amounted to pouring salt on a still very open wound Because no one could have any doubt against whom theSaudis intended to ultimately deploy the tanks, the very idea that just a generation after the Holocaust the Germans are willing to consider furnishing weapons to kill the survivors and the children ot the victims of Auschwitz appears particularly revolting Until recently, e\er\ respectable German politician recognized his country's moral obligation to Israel and scores ot othet nations that sultered so greatly from Hillei s ravages That sense ol responsibility undeilies the 1971 Cabinet ruling—based upon West Germany's 1961 Arms Control Act—prohibiting military exports to areas of international tension During the past few years, though, Bonn has interpreted this restriction in an increasingly permissive manner Chancellor Helmut Schmidt himself contributed to the change As a Social Democratic party leader in 1969, he insisted m his book, 77ie Strategy of Balance of Power, that West Germany should limit its arms sales to nato members Now, he believes that such exports are a valid means of insuring good relations with the Saudis Consequently, he has decided that Saudi Arabia is not in an area of "international tension'" And he has lamented that Leftist pacifists could join forces with conservative supporters of Israel in the Bundestag to block the tank sale Three factors appear to account for this change in attitude Germany has begun to feel much less guilty about the crimes perpetrated in its name 40 years ago, the "economic miracle" has come to an end, leaving German leaders in constant fear of recession, and, as a result, the value of moral restraint has gone down as the value of petrodollars has gone up Israeli observers point out, however, that there are curious contradictions in Bonn's explanations of its more aggressive military trade policy On the one hand, Germans claim that, given their economic situation, they cannot forgo this major source of income On the other hand, they insist the issue is exaggerated because their country is not a serious exporter They also argue that more jobs are needed in the face ot rising unemployment, ignoring the opposition of their own labor unions to increased weapons sales abroad In any case, the importance until now ot arms exports outside n mo is belied bv the statistics Last vear West Germans s total arms sales—the overwhelming proportion made to countries w ithin the Alliance—prov ided a mere " per cent ot Us I oreign trade rev enues \s lor employment, about 250 000 Gu-mans, or 1 1 percent ot theentiiewotk loice, are in armaments-related industries Only 30,000 workers (13 per cent) depend on foreign arms markets for their livelihood The Saudi contract would add 1,500 additional jobs until the tanks were completed Israeli commentators feel that there are two basic reasons for West Germany's desire to strike a deal with the Saudis First, the Germans are influenced by a general Western European desire to appease the Arabs, born of economic and social problems induced by exorbitant opec oil prices Second, small but very influential sectors of German industry look forward to profiting from arms commerce with the Arab states The worry here, in the light of the Reagan Administration's handling of the Saudi military equipment request, is that Bonn may now find at least tacit support in Washington for its evolving Middle East military sales campaign —Eliahu Salpeter...

Vol. 64 • March 1981 • No. 5

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