WASHINGTON (Jun. 23)
A Defense Department spokesman conceded a possibility of defense aid to Israel, but the State Department flatly denied such consideration in Senate Foreign Relations Committee testimony published today.
In the course of hearings on pending Mutual Security legislation, Charles H. Shuff, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Assistance, was asked whether he considered judgment involving the exclusion of Israel from U.S. defense assistance to be sound. Mr. Shuff replied: “I would have to wait until the end of 1960 to really factually answer that question, because it may be that Israel and the Department of State may negotiate a military assistance grant agreement during the course of that fiscal year. I don’t know whether this will happen. “
After an “off-the-record” discussion deleted for security reasons, the transcript indicated Mr. Shuff agreed that, barring any new developments, the existing non-military programs for Israel were sound. William Rountree, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, also testified. He told the committee: “I would say quite frankly that we have not considered the extension of military assistance to Israel. “
The issue of military assistance for Israel arose after Sen. Wayne Morse pointed out that Arab states were receiving U.S. munitions grants, but Israel was not. The Oregon Democrat raised a question of “discrimination” against Israel because of State Department concessions to the Arab attitude. He said: “Israel is really supporting a military establishment that costs her so much more than one would consider to be a fair percentage of her national budget. If she were some other country, she might be considered qualified for defense support. “
Sen. Morse told the committee of Arab threats “to wipe Israel off the face of the map” and said “inflammatory statements that are constantly being made by many of the Arab countries don’t augur very well for peace in the Middle East. “
Mr, Rountree replied that “highly inflammatory statements” were made “by both sides” and “our programs in the area cannot always be predicated entirely upon what is said or what is not said in this inflamed situation. But I think we have to proceed on evaluation of what are the real intentions of the people concerned, and in the light of what is regarded to be in our best interest.”
Denying Sen. Morse’s assertion that, by refusing defense support to Israel, the State Department discriminated. Mr. Rountree said: “I would be very surprised indeed if the Israeli representatives themselves felt that Israel had been discriminated against. Indeed, I find it often the case that friends of Israel in the United States are more sensitive to particular aspects of United States-Israel relations with the official representatives of the Israeli Government. “