After initial comments by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that the American-Saudi deal was simply a gesture to a moderate Arab regime, Israeli officials issued a clear statement of condemnation of the deal as “counterproductive to peace.”
Gabi Avital, a senior official at the Israel Air Force’s Flight Academy and a lecturer at the Technion Institute in Haifa, observed today that “the United States of America is using all its might to put through one of the largest arms deals in its history, estimated at $20 billion. The deal includes advanced combat jets, smart bombs, computer systems and missile boats. Saudi Arabia is considered by the White House to be a “strategic ally.”
As a result of this deal, Avital notes, “the technological gap will quickly shrink.” A squadron of combat jets will be positioned on Saudi Arabia’s Western border, minutes from Israel, which is skeptical of the Saudis’ promise that no harm will come to Israel. In the early 1990s, Saudi Arabia bought F-15 planes equipped with integral fuel tanks. Despite Saudi Arabia’s promise to the Americans, the planes were positioned next to Israel.
And from a purely American strategic point of view, Saudi Arabia does not see eye to eye with the U.S. on its goals in Iraq, on the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and on the price of oil and its production. Meanwhile, the Saudis demand that Hamas be included in the “peace process.” The Saudis are quick to remind the world that they are the sponsors of Hamas, which President Bush has repeatedly stated is one of the key elements of the “axis of evil.”
Saudis Acquire Major Supplier To U.S. Military
The Middle East Newsline has uncovered an unusual Saudi Arabian business conflict of interest: It would seem that Saudi Arabia has quietly acquired a leading supplier to the U.S. military.
The state-owned Saudi Basic Industries Corp. has purchased GE Plastics from General Electric for $11.6 billion. Based in Pittsfield, Mass., GE Plastics, with 11,000 employees, develops and manufactures plastic polymers, composites and polycarbonates used in U.S. military platforms, including fighter jets, submarines and engines.
“SABIC’s intention is to grow globally,” SABIC chief executive officer Mohamed Al Mady said.
In May, SABIC announced the acquisition of GE Plastics, regarded as the largest transaction ever completed in the United States by a Gulf Cooperation Council state. Seventy percent of SABIC, which employees 17,000 people, is owned by the Saudi government, with Middle Eastern investors accounting for the rest of the company.
SABIC, established in 1976, bested the U.S.-based Apollo Management and the Dutch firm Bassell for the acquisition of GE Plastics. The Saudi company offered $11.6 billion.
The purchase of GE Plastics must be approved by the Committee on Foreign Investments in the U.S., aligned with the Treasury Department. GE Plastics maintains contracts with the U.S. Defense Department, Homeland Security Department and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Congress has not yet raised objections to the SABIC purchase.
This article appeared in the Philadelphia Bulletin, August 3rd, 2007