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Sunday, January 28, 2007

New York Times: US administration to tell Congress Israel violated arms pact

The New York Times is reporting this morning that the Bush administration will inform Congress on Monday that Israel may have violated agreements relating to the use of cluster bombs in last summer's Lebanon war. If the Bush administration and Congress aren't capable of viewing Israel's use of cluster bombs last summer in the context of what Hezbullah was doing, then the US - Israel relationship is really in bad shape. However, the Israel Radio report I heard this morning indicates that a several-month suspension in the sale of cluster munitions to Israel is considered likely as a result of this report. I think the real reason behind that is the alleged use of cluster munitions by Israel late in the conflict when a cease fire was in sight. If they had been used right from the outset, there would have been less of a fuss.
Midlevel officials at the Pentagon and the State Department have argued that Israel violated American prohibitions on using cluster munitions against populated areas, according to officials who described the deliberations. But other officials in both departments contend that Israel’s use of the weapons was for self-defense and aimed at stopping the Hezbollah rocket attacks that killed 159 Israeli citizens and at worst was only a technical violation.

Any sanctions against Israel would be an extraordinary move by the Bush administration, a strong backer of Israel, and several officials said they expected little further action, if any, on the matter.

But sanctions against Israel for misusing the weapons would not be unprecedented. The Reagan administration imposed a six-year ban on cluster-weapon sales to Israel in 1982, after a Congressional investigation found that Israel had used the weapons in civilian areas during its 1982 invasion of Lebanon. One option under discussion is to bar additional sales of cluster munitions for some period, an official said.

The State Department is required to notify Congress even of preliminary findings of possible violations of the Arms Export Control Act, the statute governing arms sales. It began an investigation in August.

Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman, said that the notification to Congress would occur Monday but that a final determination about whether Israel violated the agreements on use of cluster bombs was still being debated.

“It is important to remember the kind of war Hezbollah waged,” he said. “They used innocent civilians as a way to shield their fighters.”

Even if Israel is found to be in violation, the statute gives President Bush discretion about whether to impose sanctions, unless Congress decides to take legislative action. Israel makes its own cluster munitions, so a cutoff of American supplies would have mainly symbolic significance.


Before firing at rocket sites in towns and villages, the Israeli report said, the Israeli military dropped leaflets warning civilians of the attacks. The report, which has not previously been disclosed, also noted that many of the villages were deserted because civilians had fled the fighting, the officials said.

David Siegel, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, said Israel “provided a detailed response to the administration’s request for information” on its use of cluster munitions “to halt Hezbollah’s unprovoked rockets attacks against our civilian populations centers.”

He added, “Israel suffered heavy casualties in these attacks and acted as any government would in exercise of its right to self-defense.”

John Hillen, who was assistant secretary of state in charge of the bureau until he resigned this month, told Bloomberg News in December that Israel had provided “great cooperation” in the investigation. “From their perspective, use of the munitions was clearly done within the agreements,” he said.


Israel has told the State Department that it originally tried targeted strikes against Hezbollah rocket sites, but those proved ineffective.

Heavy use of cluster bombs was tried instead, to kill or maim Hezbollah fighters manning the launchers. Israeli commanders employed cluster weapons because they suspected that they would flee after firing their rockets. Even those attacks failed to stop the rockets barrages.

The agreements that govern Israel’s use of American cluster munitions go back to the 1970s. But the details, which have been revised several times, are classified.

However, officials said that the agreements specified that cluster weapons could not be used in populated areas, in part because of the risk to civilians after a conflict is over if the bomblets fail to self-destruct, as they are designed to do.

The agreements said the munitions be used only against organized armies and clearly defined military targets under conditions similar to the Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973, when Israel arguably faced threats to its survival, officials said.


Donatella Rovera, a researcher with Amnesty International in London, said older American cluster weapons used by Israel during the war did not reliably self-destruct, compared with Israel’s own cluster munitions, which are newer and are said to have a much lower dud rate.
Previously at Israel Matzav:

Hezbullah used cluster bombs too

US Senate defeats attempt to curb Israeli use of cluster bombs

No cluster bombs to Israel?

State Department investigating Israeli use of cluster bombs

Reading and misreading destruction

Human rights falsehood

The Washington Post's 'Lethal Harvest'


At 4:24 PM, Blogger Kranky (in the civilized world) said...

Revenge of the arabists at foggy bottom. They hate it when others kill their primatives. They can't stand it when presidents ignore them, and order them to do things that they know they should not do. Like make sure we have good relationships with civilized countries embedded in a sea of depostic dictatorships. Foggy bottom would much rather play in the courts of the dictators. They are sympathetic with the invented plight of refugees, which they helped to create, and which they helped to perpetuate.

I have warned this before, and I warn it again; Israel needs to be completely self sufficient in armaments and munitions. A strong leader and a leader with a pair of testicles might help.


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