Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney announced Friday that the United States was stockpiling American military equipment in Israel for use in any regional conflict. "We currently are implementing an agreement with Israel to pre-position materials and equipment here," Cheney said as he left a meeting in Jerusalem Friday afternoon with Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. "That's under way as we speak."
The United States and Israel made an agreement years ago to store American military equipment in Israel. Reinforced bunkers and storage areas were built, but the equipment was never supplied because the United States worried that Israel's Arab neighbors would view the storage of American military supplies as provocative.
The unexpected announcement came just one day after Cheney said the United States would give Israel 10 used F-15 fighters and would continue supplying three-quarters of the financing for an American-Israeli anti-ballistic missile project, the Arrow.
Cheney said he did not think any of this conflicted with the spirit of President Bush's plan for a regional arms control agreement, announced Wednesday.
"There is nothing inconsistent with on the one hand saying that we are interested in pursuing arms control and on the other hand providing for the legitimate security requirements that many of our friends in the region do have," he said. "The plan is not for an absolute, total ban on all arms to the region."
For its part, Israel on Friday elaborated on its previous, lukewarm response to Bush's arms control proposal. Israeli officials told Cheney any agreement would have to include at least 17 Arab or Moslem nations that, in Jerusalem's view, might one day threaten the Jewish state. Those nations stretch from Morocco in the west to Pakistan in the east.
Israeli officials also were uneasy with Bush's emphasis on weapons of mass destruction, which would include the nuclear weapons Israel is believed to have, as well as the many chemical weapons in the area.