The Knesset Joint Defense Budget Committee last night instructed the defense establishment not to implement the decision to procure Humvee jeep armor in the US. Instead the armor is to be bought and installed by Plasan - Kibbutz Sasa, Oran Palmah Zova and Automotive Industries in Nazareth.
The new committee chairman, MK Saleh Tarif (Labor), called for the decision to be suspended, until after the committee discusses the Israeli procurements in the 2003 defense budget.
Deputy Minister of Defense Wizman Shiry, the previous committee chairman, was not invited to the committee meeting. A few minutes before the meeting, he said the US procurements would not be carried out, and the armor would be procured in Israel "as long I am in my post."
Shiry's comments reiterated his earlier statement. He said he had the full backing of Minister of Defense Benjamin Ben-Eliezer.
The committee's decision came at the conclusion of a discussion requested by MK Moshe (Mossi) Raz (Meretz). The defense establishment claims the decision to be the US Humvee armor was based on budget priorities to better exploit the reduced shekel portion of the US military aid. A defense representative nevertheless admitted last night, "The Israeli armor is more effective and cheaper."
It was revealed during the discussion that the difference is not large - NIS 22 million to armor 100 Humvees, while the Israeli armor would save the defense establishment $4 million in foreign currency. The procurement of Humvees is carried out in the US in any case. The cost of the procurement in the US, including armor, is $20 million, but using Israeli armor would cost $16 million.
The Israeli companies promised to use raw materials purchased with part of the foreign currency portion of the aid. This means the foreign currency aid would still finance 70% of the Humvee deal if Israeli armor is used.
Ministry of Defense procurement officials claimed the deal was an exception, since Israeli-built Sufa jeeps were unavailable as an immediate and temporary alternative to the US Humvees. The armor is produced by Plasan - Kibbutz Sasa, the reinforced windows are made at Oran Palmah Zova, and assembly is at Automotive Industries in Nazareth. Automotive Industries general manager Jonathan Schanin and Plasan deputy general manager Ilan Shwartz warned that cancellation of the orders put 400 jobs at risk, and would seriously affect an order for armor for the Greek Army.
Published by Globes [online] - www.globes.co.il - on October 22, 2002