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The [pro-Israeli] lobby's intelligence network, having numer- ous volunteer "friendlies" to tap, reaches all parts of the executive branch where matters concerning Israel are handled.
Awareness of this seepage keeps officials — whatever rung of the ladder they occupy — from making or even proposing decisions that are in the U. interest.*' Whereas the State Department, with its history-conscious bureaucracy and its seasoned professionals had once acted as a counterbalance to the political suasions of the pro-Israeli forces, under Reagan it seems to have succumbed.
In times of economic crisis it became the supreme exigency.
A 1986 estimate puts annual sales at "m ore than II .
2 5 bi llion ■ "'^ Since 1982 Israel has been ranked among the world's top ten arms producers.''' The importance to the overall economy of the arms manufacturing sector also increased, with weapons exports estimated to have comprised 3 1 percent of industrial exports in 1975, up from 14 percent in 1967'^ and more recently 30 to 40 percent of Israel's industrial output.'* The arms industry employs "anywhere from 58,000 to as many as 1 20,000 Israelis," or, taking the lower figure, 20 percent of the industrial labor force,'' with the biggest unit, Israel Aircraft Industries, the nation's largest employer, carrying 20,000 on its payroll.'^ The export imperative, in turn, brought its own set of problems, these centering on the overseas markets available to Israel and on its choice of customers from that list.
"A person who sleeps with dogs shouldn't be surprised to find himself covered with fleas," comments the military correspondent for Israel's major daily newspaper.'^ Israeli critics, who term the phenomenon "arms diplomacy," warn that the export imperative has motivated a sequence of ad hoc, opportunistic decisions that have precluded the development of a coherent foreign policy, which, in turn, might over the long term mitigate Israel's isolated position in the world.
Yet these critics are far from sanguine about the ability of Israel to set itself on a different course. However, the Carter Administration was unable to prevent Israeli nuclear cooperation with South Africa, and the Reagan Administration was unsuccessful in persuading the Israelis to halt their arms sales to Iran in the early 1980s (assuming it wanted to). On the other hand, Israel has often obliged this or that sector of the U. government, selling arms where it would be embarrassing or illegal for the U. to do so: the contras, the Peoples Republic of China in the early 1980s," and the Derg government of Ethiopia'^ are examples.