US damaging Israel's qualitative edge, warn officials

Tuesday, June 12, 2007 |  by Staff Writer

A mini-crisis is said be brewing between the US and Israeli defense establishments over the sale of advanced American “smart bombs” to Saudi Arabia.

Two Israeli generals returned from Washington on Monday after failing to sway Pentagon officials with their government's concerns over the deal, which is worth billions of dollars to US defense contractors.

Putting these weapons - which are similar to the smart bombs used by the Israeli Air Force - in Saudi hands “damages Israel's qualitative military edge in the Middle East,” warned defense officials cited by Israel's Ma'ariv daily newspaper.

Other security experts have cautioned that while the current Saudi regime may never use these weapons against Israel, there is no telling who will be in control in Riyadh in five, 10 or 20 years.

In the unstable political atmosphere that characterizes much of the Arab Middle East, successive American administrations have vowed to help maintain Israel's qualitative military edge over its enemies.

The current backtracking on that promise has elicited threats from Jerusalem to call into action the pro-Israel lobby on Capitol Hill in order to scuttle the Saudi arms deal.

US defense officials have responded angrily, and have banned Israel from participating in the development of the Joint Strike Fighter next-generation fighter jet in retaliation.

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