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U.S. Presses Israel on India Deal

Under American pressure, Israel grudgingly has agreed to suspend the sale of an advanced airborne radar warning system to India. Washington fears that the sale will increase tensions between India and Pakistan, as the Bush administration wages war in Iraq and keeps a watchful eye on North Korea.

Israeli sources in Washington told the Forward that Israel has agreed to defer the $1 billion sale of the Phalcon Awacs system, but has not canceled it.

The American request comes as the Bush administration is asking Congress to approve a generous aid package for Israel, featuring a $1 billion grant to cover defense-related expenses and $9 billion in loan guarantees. According to the Israeli business daily Globes, the United States conditioned the $1 billion grant on Israel’s suspending the deal.

The American request is reminiscent of one made by the Clinton administration in August 2000, when it pushed Israel to cancel a $250 million sale of the Phalcon to China. Then, the United States was worried that the early warning system could be used by China against American forces in case of a military conflict over Taiwan. Israel unsuccessfully attempted to use its friends on Capitol Hill to beat back the administration’s opposition. The short showdown strained relations between Jerusalem and Washington, and between Israel and China. Israel had to financially compensate the Chinese.

The India deal is somewhat different. Israeli sources say that the United States, having previously granted its approval, is only asking Israel to put the deal on hold, not to cancel it. Israeli sources said Washington was “in the picture” on all contacts between Israel and India concerning the deal.

Under contracts signed between Israel and the United States, Washington has the right to veto any Israeli sales of weapon systems that involve American-made components or American technology.

The Israel-India security relationship was bolstered in recent years, with much help from the American Jewish community. Israel reportedly is India’s largest weapons supplier.

GOP Discusses Antisemitism Rise

Senate Republicans last week held a special meeting to discuss the rise in antisemitism on American campuses.

Senators Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Robert Bennett of Utah, Sam Brownback of Kansas and Norm Coleman of Minnesota all spoke in support of Senate efforts to eliminate antisemitism on campus. Coleman encouraged the attendees to keep senators informed. “This is not just a Jewish senator being concerned, but it’s about all of us,” Coleman said.

Brownback promised to offer legislation forming a commission to investigate antisemitic incidents on campuses.

During the meeting of GOP senators and legislative aides, a deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education, Louis Goldstein, said that although some cases of antisemitism on campus are investigated by his office, many fall through the cracks. He urged Jewish organizations to help by reporting incidents of antisemitism.

Jay Rubin, executive vice president of Hillel, the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, told the group of senators that despite the 24% rise in antisemitic campus incidents reported by the Anti-Defamation League, most Jewish students do not face intimidation. Still, senators and Jewish organizational representatives agreed that no antisemitic acts should be tolerated.

House Backs Prayer Day

By a majority of 346 to 49, the House passed a resolution last week calling on President Bush to designate “a national day of humility, prayer and fasting” in a time of war and terrorism. The measure also called on Americans “to seek guidance from God to achieve a greater understanding of our own failings and to learn how we can do better in our everyday activities, and to gain resolve in meeting the challenges that confront our nation.”

The unusual legislation was passed after the Senate on March 17 approved a bill recognizing “the public need for fasting and prayer in order to secure the blessings and protection of Providence for the people of the United States and our armed forces.”

The president has yet to decide on a specific date for prayers and fasting.

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