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Israel, U.S. Ink Fighter Pact

After months of negotiations, Israel last week signed an agreement with the United States outlining the terms of its participation in the development of the Joint Strike Fighter, the next-generation fighter jet.

The agreement is in the form of a letter of intent, in which Israel commits itself to paying tens of millions of dollars in return for the right to participate in the development of the fighter for the purpose of purchasing it upon completion, in 2012.

The letter was signed in Washington by the director general of Israel’s Defense Ministry, Amos Yaron, and the undersecretary of defense for technology and logistics, Edward Aldridge.

Israel is joining the project with a status unlike that of eight other partners, all European, that are cooperating with Washington on developing the fighter jet. Instead of being a full participant, Israel will be a “security cooperation participant,” which means that it will not participate in partner discussions during the development phase, but will engage in such discussions bilaterally with Washington.

The agreement grants Israeli companies the right to compete in manufacturing portions of the new aircraft. To Israel’s advantage, this will reopen the program to bids by Israeli companies, after most of the program had been divided between the nine partners. Last year Israel missed the deadline for joining the program and as a result was left out of the bidding.

Senators Fault Saudis

Two senators, New York Democrat Charles Schumer and Oregon Republican Gordon Smith, are seeking co-sponsors for a resolution critical of the Saudi education system. The two senators have distributed to the other members of the Senate copies of a study of Saudi schoolbooks prepared by the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace and the American Jewish Committee. The study, an analysis of 93 state-sponsored textbooks in Saudi Arabia, finds that Saudi students are being taught that “Jews are wickedness in its very essence,” “Zionism is a nationalist, racist and aggressive movement” and the West “is the source of the past and present misfortunes in the Muslim world.”

In the books, students are given examples of what constitutes legitimate jihad, or holy war, such as the Muslim struggles over Kashmir and “occupied Palestine.”

Representatives of the American Jewish Committee met in September with the Saudi foreign minister to protest what had been discovered in the survey’s initial findings.

Congress Approves Aid Bill

Congress last week passed the foreign aid appropriations bill for fiscal year 2003, which codifies President Bush’s conditions for Palestinian statehood. The bill requires that any funds supporting the creation of a Palestinian state not be provided unless the Bush administration “determines and certifies” that there is a new, democratically elected Palestinian leadership, and that this leadership is taking “appropriate measures to counter terrorism,” including dismantling the terrorists’ infrastructure. The bill’s language effectively codifies the president’s speech of June 24, 2002, in which he laid out conditions for the establishment of a Palestinian state. The bill contains a waiver clause, which grants the president authority to disregard it in the interest of national security.

The bill, which now awaits the president’s signature, also requires the General Accounting Office to prepare a report to determine if the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which oversees humanitarian aid in Palestinian refugee camps, has a role in fomenting terrorism, as Israel has repeatedly charged.

The bill also establishes greater oversight and accountability for America’s humanitarian aid to Palestinians.

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