Israel trying to prevent U.S.-Jordan missile deal

01/08/2004 Israel is trying to block an American-Jordanian arms deal, a diplomatic source said yesterday. The deal is for AMRAAM air-to-air missiles to be installed in Jordanian airplanes. The source said this is the first time since signing the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan that Israel has tried to stop arms from reaching Jordan. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom decided to try to sabotage the deal, fearing that if the U.S. sold the missiles to Jordan, it would ultimately sell them to Egypt as well. Israel is concerned at Egypt arming itself with advanced weapons. The advanced AMRAAM missile homes on targets accurately and the defense establishment said if any other state besides Israel gets them, it would impair Israel’s „qualitative edge.”

An Israeli source said: „It is not healthy for such weapons to be so short a distance from Israel and it is not clear why Jordan wants them. Clearly if Jordan was attacked we would do the work for them, so there is no justification to sell them the missiles.” A report to this effect is due to be broadcast on Army Radio this morning. The deal is at an advanced stage and the American administration has already asked Congress for approval. The Americans saw no problem in selling Jordan the missiles in view of the good relations it has with Israel and since Israel does not regard Jordan as any significant threat. However, when the issue reached Mofaz’s desk about two weeks ago he decided Israel must object. The Jewish organizations in Washington expressed concern over the deal to the administration and Israel asked senior congressmen to delay the transaction. However, Israel wants to stop the deal by persuading the administration and not by activating the congress against the administration. Israel is also examining various technical possibilities to ensure that the missiles are not directed against it, or to obtain an undertaking that these weapons will not reach Egyptian hands. American sources expressed astonishment at Israel’s attempt to thwart the deal because Jordan has signed a peace agreement with Israel and its army does not threaten Israel. Certain Israeli officials have also objected to Israel’s bid to torpedo the deal. They said sabotaging the deal would damage Israel’s relations with Jordan and that it was better not to go against the Americans on a „borderline” issue.