WASHINGTON (Oct. 20)
State Department circles reported today that “apprehension” exists in the Department lest “Israel extremists” seek to forcibly prevent delivery of Czech munitions shipments to Egypt at the port of Alexandria. Ships bearing arms consigned to Egypt may now be at sea.
State Department officials, describing themselves as concerned for Israel’s best interests, professed to believe that a danger exists that elements of the Herut Party in Israel might attempt to sabotage the shipments or even that military air or naval units of the Israel forces might be employed in such an attempt. Departmental sources said that this “danger” had been discussed in the Department in staff meetings but there was no indication that the United States had conveyed these alleged apprehensions to Israel. One informant said that U.S. military attaches in Egypt had been instructed to be on the alert for signs of Israel attempts to interfere with the arms shipments and for an Israel move to force entrance into the Gulf of Akaba, now barred by Egyptian batteries.
(The Times of London pointed out today that the three-Western Powers are under a “clear obligation” to maintain Israel’s present boundaries against attack. It said that “it may be necessary to help Israel find extra arms to defend herself” and added that “she could best help her own cause by giving the clearest assurances that the arms will not be used in hostile action.”)
It was pointed out here today that military aircraft sold to Egypt by the Soviet bloc may be flown to Egypt and, in that case, would require clearance from either Yugoslavia or Greece whose airspace would have to be crossed. It could not be determined here if such authorization had been requested or granted.
Considerable attention was given here today to a report by the Middle East Institute indicating that despite State Department assertions to the contrary, Egypt possesses a considerable naval superiority over Israel. The Institute inadvertently revealed that two U.S. warships which the State Department had approved for sale to Egypt in 1950 as commercial vessels despite disclosures by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that they could be decommissioned for naval use, are now “believed rescheduled for naval use” by Egypt.