The proposed sale of F16 fighters and Hawk mobile antiaircraft missiles to Jordan is a threat to Israel's security and could lead to a confrontation with the U.S. administration similar to that over the sale of airborne warning and control systems (AWACs) aircraft to Saudi Arabia, Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir said tonight.
Shamir, in the first Israeli action to the arms sale proposed by U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger to King Hussein, told an radio interview panel that the sale of sophisticated weapons to any Arab country poses a "serious danger" to Israel and increases the danger of war in the middle east. "We'll do everything in our power to frustrate this dangerous move," Shamir said.
Later in the interview, when asked about the likelihood of an AWACs-like lobbying effort in the Congress, the foreign minister replied, "I very much hope we will not reach a similar confrontation. But the danger exists. We consider it a serious matter, and we will of course insist on standing on our security."
Shamir recalled that in the past, when the sale of mobile missiles to Jordan was raised, Israel voiced its objections "and as you know, the Congress rejected the administration's initiative." He was referring to a 1975 arms deal in which Congress stipulated that Hawks sold to Jordan be located in fixed sites. Since then Jordan has sought mobile missile systems, and recently concluded the purchase of 20 batteries of Soviet-built SA8 missiles.
Shamir said that Israel had already "started action at the level of the U.S. administration," and that the F16 and Hawk proposal would be one of the first subjects to be dealt with by the new Israeli ambassador to Washington, Moshe Arens.
Before Shamir's statement, official Israeli sources had said that F16s and Hawk missiles in the Jordanian arsenal would upset the qualitative edge in weapons that Israel has long insisted upon and would alter the balance of power in the region.