Turning Israel Into A Banana Republic

The Jewish Press - Week of February 11

There was a disturbing news report the other day in The New York Times about the possible collapse of a long-planned deal involving an $800 million Israeli purchase of Boeing combat helicopters because American officials were reluctant to share secret military software with the Israelis. Apparently, Pentagon officials are balking at having to give Israel the classified codes necessary to operate the on-board computers. Pentagon officials reportedly suspect that Israel has shared sensitive American military technology with India and China, who are customers of Israel's arms industry.

While the issue of the combat helicopters is important in and of itself, the report takes on ominous significance in the context of the expected Israeli relinquishment of the Golan to Syria and Israel's reliance on American monitoring of Syrian military positions for its northern security needs.

Despite the protestations of the Barak government, it seems clear that any agreement with Syria will include Israel's surrender of the Golan. Even if the current suspension of the talks is not just part of a charade to strengthen Barak's hand with the Israeli populace and we rather think it is the dispute seems to be centered around whether the turnover must be committed to in advance as Assad insists, or following some bookkeeping "negotiations."

And the linchpin of any deal will be the acceptance of an American military presence on the Golan to provide Israel with an early warning system if not the strategic superiority currently afforded by its control of the Golan. Yet the Pentagon's expression of fear over Israel's trustworthiness at this juncture is not happenstance. The helicopter deal was an opportunity seized to begin a process leading to Israel not being a full partner with the U.S. in any monitoring scheme on the Golan. Thus, Israel's security will effectively be in the hands of another country. When one considers the experience with the year's long inability of the international community to even define what would constitute a violation by Iraq of UN inspection resolutions, the message is made even clearer.

In the larger sense, too, there is much to worry about. Prime Minister Barak has said over and over again that in his view the ballistic missile threats from Iran and Iraq will soon overshadow any fears on the Syrian and Palestinian fronts. And it is in that context that Israel is seeking to purchase cruise missiles from the United States. But that would obviously require regular access to sophisticated United States military information, particularly as provided by satellites. Should the Pentagon demonization of Israel take hold, Israel's security vis--vis Iran and Iraq would also be in the hands of the United States.

At the risk of suggesting a measure of paranoia, the Pollard issue ineluctably comes to mind while thinking about these things. What better way to cement the perception of an unreliable Israel than to assert that a spy for Israel, an ally of the United States for Heaven's sake, did so much damage to the United States that he deserves to end his days in federal prison?

But then again, there is an old saying that just because one may be paranoid, it doesn't mean that no one is running after him.