Jerusalem – The Middle East Newsline has confirmed that the United States has agreed to raise the level of defense relations with Israel.

In that context, the Bush administration has dispatched Defense Secretary Robert Gates to Israel, who will arrive tonight for meetings on strategic issues with his counter part, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

This would be the first time since 1999 that a U.S. defense secretary visited Israel. Gates’s predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, toured the Middle East several times, but never entered Israel. In June 2006, Rumsfeld was meant to visit Israel, but this was canceled at the last minute.

The Gates visit was said to have signaled the lifting of U.S. sanctions on Israel in wake of an unmanned aerial vehicle upgrade project for China in 2004.

The Pentagon, angered that Israel tried to conceal the project, severed high-level ties, blocked sensitive exports and denied Israel access to the Joint Strike Fighter program. Israel was not believed to have completed the Harpy UAV upgrade for Beijing.

In September 2005, Israel and the United States agreed to consult on proposed arms exports by the Jewish state. Israel also pledged to make its export approval process transparent, legislation that has not yet been approved by the Knesset.

Gates was expected to discuss a proposed U.S. arms sale to Saudi Arabia, a deal which caused great concern on the part of Israeli defense officials because Saudi Arabia remains in a state of war with Israel.

Senior Israeli officials have warned that Saudi requests for advanced F-15 and F-16 fighter jets as well as air-to-ground weaponry could erode Israel’s qualitative military edge over its Arab neighbors. Congress has also expressed concern over the proposed Saudi deal.

“We expect there will be sweeteners to overcome Israeli objections [to the Saudi deal],” an official told the Middle East Newsline. “There are quite a few things in the pipeline that have been held up.”

The official did not elaborate, but defense sources cited Israel’s requests for advanced airborne weapons and technology, approval for Israeli subsystems on the F-35, and an expanded intelligence exchange on threats in the Middle East.

David Bedein can be reached at His Web site is

©The Bulletin 2007


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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: and A new site,, will be launched very soon.