by Adam Gonn
JERUSALEM, Oct. 21 (Xinhua) -- U.S. plans to sell highly- advanced weaponry to Saudi Arabia might trigger Israeli objections in the past, but when the United States announced Wednesday it would sell an estimated 60 billion U.S. dollars worth of advanced weapons to its Arab ally, U.S. officials do not foresee any objections from the Jewish state.
Israel has been adamant on maintaining a technical edge over its neighbors and has voiced opposition against sales that would threaten its technological supremacy.
However, Andrew Shapiro, U.S. State Department's assistant secretary for political-military affairs, said the U.S. government does not anticipate any Israeli objection over this deal which, if not blocked by the U.S. Congress, will be the single largest arms deal in American history and would take 15-20 years to complete.
Analysts believe Israel kept silent this time because both Israel and Saudi Arabia consider Iran as a growing threat, and the deal won't change the regional strategic balance.
A COMMON FOE
Joshua Teitelbaum, a senior research fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, told Xinhua that Israel's silence could be summed up in the saying "my enemy's enemy is my friend."
"As long as Israel feels that it is maintaining a qualitative military edge, it will not try to contradict or block the efforts of its main ally, the United States," he said.
Israel itself also signed recently a deal with the United States which will provide Israel with 20 F-35 jet fighters that cost up to 3 billion dollars, Teitelbaum added.
While Israel and Saudi Arabia may not see eye to eye on most issues in the Middle East, both of them share a common anxiety about Iran, he said.
According to Teitelbaum, for Israel, the focus is on Iran's alleged intention to acquire nuclear weapons, while Saudi Arabia worries about Shiite Iran's potential threat to its regional hegemony.
KEEPING TECHNOLOGICAL EDGE
Francis Tusa, editor of the London-published newsletter Defense Analysis, told Xinhua that the current deal would not change the strategic balance in the region and Israel would still maintain technological advantage.
When the United States exported the F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, Israel is in the process of acquiring the F-35 fighter jets. One important difference between the two that may have convinced Israel that the new deal would not be a threat is the lack of long range operational capabilities of the F-15 as opposed to the F-35 which, with mid-air refueling, can go almost anywhere in the region.
"Everyone has to remember that Washington is never going to do anything that will change the ultimate military balance against Israel," Tusa said.
If the situation ever would arise that an Arab country would attempt to attack Israel, the United States would step in to aid its ally, Tusa said, adding "the current Saudi government you don' t get any impression they are going to attack Israel any time soon. "
NOT A SIGN OF TRUST
While one might be led to believe that the lack of objection could be a sign of trust between Israel and Saudi Arabia, analysts believed that Israel has more trust in the United States and is holding back criticism.
Barak Seener, head of Middle East security program at the Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies, a London think tank, told Xinhua that the deal should not be seen as a sign of trust between Israel and Saudi Arabia but as a carefully orchestrated plan by the United States to "boost the strategic capabilities of Saudi Arabia without upsetting the advantage of Israel."
Seener's view was echoed by Yehuda Ben Meir, a principal research fellow and co-director of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, who told Xinhua that "it would be hard for Israel to oppose a deal which the United States can say is aimed at strengthening the Arab countries around Iran."