Israel faces pressure from US and China re arms deal by: Haytham Mouzahem

Israel faces pressure from US and China re arms deal
written by: Haytham Mouzahem, 29-Dec-2004







The United States is blaming Israel for undermining its sustained diplomatic efforts to persuade Europe not to resume arms sales to China, in an increasingly bitter row over Israel's upgrading of a weapons system for China. In meanwhile, Chinese deputy prime minister Tang Jiaxuan, flew in to Israel secretly Saturday night,December 25, to recover an unspecified number of Israel-built Harpy attack drones sent back for upgrading and held back by Israel at Washington's insistence.

Now, Israel finds itself in the line of crossfire from two world powers, the United States and China, with serious diplomatic crises in its relations with both.

The Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post quoted Monday Tuesday the military relationship" between Israel and the US. Some other US officials describe the rift as being less than "a big crisis," this insider said the dispute can now only be resolved "at a high level", The Jerusalem Post said.

The system now in question is the Harpy, a killer drone that hovers over enemy radar systems and then dives on top of them. Manufactured by Israel Aircraft Industries's MBT Division, it was sold to China in 1994. The system was returned recently for repairs and upkeep and upgrading. The US fears that the systems could be used against US personnel, who may be forced to protect Taiwan against China in any potential war. The US has demanded from Israel to confiscate Chinese-owned assault drone that had been sent back to Israel for upgrading, and Israeli reports said that Washington has asked for the dismissal of Israeli defence ministry director general Amos Yaron over that deal.

The US has been working through diplomatic channels for months to persuade the EU to keep its ban on military sales to China, in effect since the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and US officials say Israeli sales of military technology are making a mockery of that effort. "We have been in a huge campaign [toward the EU] to persuade them not to lift their embargo on lethal weapons sales," a senior US official said to The Jerusalem Post. "We are lobbying the Europeans as hard as we can not to,while Israel is selling the same kind of technology", the official added.

A European diplomat predicted Washington's efforts to persuade the EU would prove futile. "We're on the way to lifting [the embargo]," the diplomat said to the Israeli newpaper. Nine days ago, EU leaders declared their "political will" to lift the arms embargo on China by next June. Leading European arms exporters such as France and Germany declared the ban "outdated."

Although, no official word has been released on the Chinese visitor to Israel or the message he carried, the DEBKAfile website close to Israeli Intelligence, quoted Tuesday political sources said the Israeli prime minister's and defense minister's offices have known the general content of the Chinese message which its main contents are:

"It is time for Israel to appreciate that China is a world power, and Israel is stepping out of line for the second time on a defense transaction. This time, Beijing will not accept monetary compensation. The Chinese government does not accept the pretext that the Harpy drones are being held back because of the Americans. The Israelis are bound to work the issue out with Washington. The drones must be returned because they now bear Chinese military markings.

Failure to send the UARs back to their owners will be detrimental to Chinese-Israeli diplomatic relations and prejudicial to the interests of Israeli firms operating in China".

According to DEBKAfile's sources, Beijing hit the ceiling when it learned that the White House had exacerbated the Chinese drone crisis by shifting it from lower Pentagon ranks to defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld in person. The file was also passed to the Senate Armed Services Committee. Putting the case before the Senate Committee invites a review of US appropriations to Israel, including military aid, in the full realization that delayed transfers would cause Israel severe financial damage.

US officials said Israeli never asked permission or notified the administration about the Chinese sale.

Israel claims there is no American-developed technology in the Harpy, and Israel was under no compulsion to check with Washington on the sale.

Washington was informed by Taiwan, which recently also purchased Harpy drones from Israel. Beijing demanded an upgradeafter discovering its drone lacked the more advanced instruments incorporated in the newer version for identifying target signals not only from its library but visually - which enables the unmanned craft to strike targets after their radar is switched off. China demanded that its Harpy drones be brought level with the UARs supplied Taiwan.

In 2000, Israel called off the sale to China of Phalcon surveillance craft under US pressure.

China received $350 million indemnity from Israel for defaulting on the deal.

DEBKAfile's webiste said that the Chinese army has been using the Israel-built Harpy close-range surveillance and targeting UAV for a wide range of functions, including electronic warfare, airborne early warning (AEW) and ground attack roles, as well as reconnaissance and communications relay. Chinese strategic planners have designated a range of drones capable of verifying and destroying targets. The key element of this force of killer drones is the Israeli Harpy which is capable of patrolling the skies over a battle field or an enemy target and seeking out hostile radar by comparing its signal to the hostile emitters in its library. Once it is verified, the drone attacks. Even if the targeted radar is switched off, the Harpy version sold China can abort the attack and hover until it is reactivated and then return to the attack.

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