Letter: Weapons Israel really wants

Sir: Christopher Bellamy ("US laser plans to defend Israel lack credibility", 30 April) is quite right that Nautilus, a laser anti-missile system, is nowhere near ready and not right for use against Katyushas anyway. But what Israel wants from the United States is something a bit different: at least as much to do with what the United States calls "counter- proliferation" in the long run, as with "counter-terrorism" and destroying what might get lobbed in tomorrow.

"Counter-proliferation" covers the active military form of disarmament - getting in there and taking it out in advance. The Israeli attack in 1981 on the Iraqi nuclear facility under construction counts as "counter- proliferation". So do Secretary of Defence Perry's suggestions that the United States will wipe out what he believes is a chemical weapons factory under a mountain in Libya when the right burrowing, possibly nuclear, "counter-proliferation" weapons are ready (International Herald Tribune, 20 April 1996).

What the new agreement between the United States and Israel was to cover - according to the Tel Aviv newspaper Ha'aretz (9 April, 1996) - was a five-year, $500m collaboration in anti-ballistic missile systems (including the Israeli-US-funded Arrow and Homa systems). There would be co-ordination of efforts against "the proliferation of non-conventional weapons" and equipment would be provided for Israel to receive "real-time" US surveillance data (IHT).

Given that the Middle East Disarmament Forum that was to work on how to establish the Middle East as a nuclear etc, weapon-free zone, concurrently with the "peace process", has apparently been allowed to collapse, what is on the way - or at least what is being promoted by some - is a totally armed Israel able to target any opponent it chooses from behind the safety of its anti-missile defences.

All this does indeed lack "credibility". Still, there is too much political momentum behind it to think that it will just go away. Lady Thatcher was backing all this at Fulton; the Republican Congress is backing it; the administration trying to talk Nato into buying into it.

Elizabeth Young

London W2