The Jerusalem Post, June 28, 2000
WASHINGTON (June 28) - Members of the House Appropriations Committee yesterday said that if Israel sells the Phalcon airborne radar system to China, it will jeopardize all future US aid.
In a bipartisan unanimous vote, the committee approved an amendment to the 2001 foreign appropriations bill that strongly urges Israel to cancel the deal. Passage of the amendment was followed by staunch promises from both Democrats and Republicans to reject aid requests if Israel delivers the Phalcon system at the start of next year.
"It is the sense of Congress that we are very disturbed by reports that
Israel is preparing to provide China with an airborne radar system that would threaten both the forces of democratic Taiwan and the United States in the region surrounding the Taiwan straits.
"The Congress urges Israel to terminate the existing contract to sell an
airborne radar system to the People's Republic of China," read the amendment, offered by Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) and Norman Dicks (D-Wash.).
Prime Minister Ehud Barak last night said the government takes the concerns of the US very seriously.
"Israel places great importance on its strategic ties with the United States. Israel does not have, nor has it ever had, any intention to hurt the essential interests of the United States," said a statement from the Prime Minister's Office.
The vote followed more than an hour of censure of Israel, spurred by a
proposed amendment by Sonny Callahan (R-Ala.) to hold back the $250m. in military assistance until Israel cancels the deal or Secretary of Defense William Cohen certifies that the weapon sale "does not pose a threat to the national security of the United States."
Attached to his proposed amendment was The Jerusalem Post's editorial from last Thursday, titled "Cancel the Phalcon deal." Callahan, who like others repeatedly quoted from the editorial to support their opposition to the sale, failed last week to win a majority of support for his proposed cut in the foreign operations subcommittee, which he chairs.
Yesterday, the amendment was superseded by the Pelosi-Dicks measure and never came to a vote.
Ranking Democratic committee member David Obey of Wisconsin said Israel would be punished if it transferred the system. "If that sale goes forward, I have no intention of supporting further aid to Israel. Period. That ought to be pretty damn clear," he said.
Pelosi and Dicks proposed their amendment as a substitute to Callahan's, which they said could weaken Prime Minister Ehud Barak's government at a crucial moment of peacemaking, regional instability, and coalition chaos.
Pelosi and other Democrats and Republicans, however, urged Callahan to reintroduce his proposed cut when the appropriations bill comes to the House floor after the July 4 recess, should Israel not cancel the deal beforehand.
"The sale must not go through," Pelosi said. "I have every confidence that China will exploit this technology."
The warnings registered with senior pro-Israel lobbyists present at the
hearing, one of who conceded that Israel has no choice but to "cancel the deal." A day before the vote, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee sent a letter to all committee members urging them not to support Callahan's proposal.
"The issue is not over the wisdom of the proposed sale, which most believe should not go forward; the issue is how best to deal with disagreements between two close allies," the letter signed by AIPAC executive director Howard Kohr, legislative director Brad Gordon, and director of legislative strategy Ester Kurz said.
Callahan, who criticized the "hired hands" of AIPAC, promised to raise his proposal later in the budgetary process.
Callahan said that quiet efforts to persuade Israel to cancel the deal had
failed and that only a monetary threat could sway the powers in Jerusalem.
Jerry Lewis (R-CA) said he had yet to hear one person in Washington"give any bit of support for this transfer of technology." A call to any congressman in favor of the deal to rise was greeted with silence.
Illustrating the damage the deal has done to Israel's reputation, Lewis
called into question Israel's trustworthiness as a recipient of sensitive US secrets. If Israel is transferring AWACS technology built upon American know-how, "what's next?" Israel insists that no US technology is included in the Phalcon system.
Appropriations Committee chairman Bill Young (R-Fla.), who labored to keep order in what at times became a contentious hearing, likened Israel's sale of the Phalcon to a situation in which the US sold "F-22 fighter planes to Iran or Stingers to Syria."
The Phalcon is a cargo plane refitted by Israel with advanced
electronic-warfare gear used for reconnaissance flights. Radars installed on board will allow China to survey an area, and locate and track enemy
aircraft. The US fears China could use the system against American soldiers in a future conflict involving America's ally, Taiwan.
Israel, which in 2001 is due to receive $1.98 billion and $840m. in foreign
military and economic assistance respectively, is by far the highest
recipient of US aid.