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U.S. suspends cooperation with Israel on F-35

May 5, 2005 (by Lieven Dewitte) - In a clear sign that the Bush administration's anger over Israeli-Chinese military ties is nearing a boiling point, the Pentagon is suspending information-sharing with Israel on a key fighter-jet program.
The seriousness of the rift had been downplayed for months by both American and Israeli officials. Last week, however, the Pentagon announced that it was suspending information-sharing with Israel on the American-led multinational project for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Washington still intends to sell the jet to Israel along with other American allies after its expected rollout in 2012, officials said. The Pentagon's decision to block Israeli intelligence access is to be understood as a serious step however.

This should be seen against the backdrop of a flurry of news reports citing increasing American concerns about China's military buildup and the threat it poses to Taiwan, a key American ally in the region.

Israel is China's second-largest arms supplier after Russia.

"It is very symbolic to tell the Israelis that our level of concern is such that 'given the stakes, we'll cut you off despite our normally very warm relations,'" said Derek Mitchell, who headed China affairs at the Pentagon in the second Clinton administration and is now a senior fellow at the Center for Security and Strategic Studies in Washington. "If Israel persists, this could get ugly. We are talking about real military capabilities that could put the U.S. at risk in the Taiwan Strait, a major flashpoint."

Israel is a security cooperation partner in the Joint Strike Fighter program but there are some types of technology and information that the US is not comfortable sharing until they resolve the technology and security issues.

Israeli officials are downplaying the rift over the F-35. They believe that the misunderstandings will be resolved in the coming months.