- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 28, 2005

JERUSALEM — An Israeli arms specialist suggested yesterday that the proposed sale by the U.S. to Israel of 100 bunker-busting bombs, announced in Washington this week, was intended primarily as a warning to Iran because Israel already produces such bombs.

Yitzhak Ben-Israel of Tel Aviv University, a retired general who formerly led the Israel Defense Ministry’s research and development branch, told Israel Radio that the purchase of the bombs had no operational significance because Israel manufactured very similar bombs.

‘Perhaps there was a symbolic reason for the sale, perhaps a signal to Iran,? he said on Israel Radio. ‘We already have the capability.’? Mr. Ben-Israel did not suggest whether the signal might have been initiated by Israel or the U.S.

The Pentagon notified Congress on Tuesday of a proposed sale to Israel of 100 laser-guided GBU-28 bombs that are capable of penetrating 90 feet below ground and destroying a bunker encased in 30 feet of concrete.

The 2-ton weapon could be carried on the U.S.-built F-15 aircraft in Israel’s possession. The conventional bunker buster, which is not nuclear, was first used in the first Persian Gulf War in 1991.

The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency said Israel had requested the purchase of the bombs from the Lockheed Martin Corp. for $30 million.

There has been considerable speculation in the U.S. that Israel might attempt to destroy Iran’s nuclear plants the way it had bombed Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981. Vice President Dick Cheney suggested the possibility in a television interview in January.

To some viewers, it sounded more like a hope than a warning. Unlike Iraq, Iran has scattered its nuclear plants and reportedly placed many of them deep underground.

On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld made a plea to Congress to refund research on bunker-busting nuclear bombs, noting that key military assets — including chemical, biological and nuclear facilities — increasingly are placed underground.

However, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon repeatedly has said that it is up to the international community, not Israel alone, to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear capability.

‘It’s not for Israel to provide the answer to the international problem,’ he told Fox News earlier this month.

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