JERUSALEM (Jul. 21)
The Israel Government does not regard the incident in which four United States weather survey planes were forced down over Israel as a diplomatic incident, Mrs.Golda Meir, Israel’s Foreign Minister, told the Cabinet meeting today.
She said that the cause of the violation of Israeli air space on Friday was a misunderstanding, and that the American commander of the flight had given an apology. Replying to questions, she said that an inspection of the grounded planes proved that the planes had not photographed anything while they were flying over Israel.
(The State Department said in Washington that the planes had been involved in an error, or a misunderstanding on flight plans. State Department press officer Richard Phillips said that the planes had filed a flight plan that included a crossing over Israel but that the planes had not actually obtained clearance from Israel authorities.)
The 32 crew members were taken to the airport restaurant and given lunch. The crew members and the planes were released the same day.
Maariv, an independent daily newspaper, praised the Israeli Air Force for intercepting the planes and said that, while Israel had no better friend than the United States, it was appropriate to remind the United States that friendship was one thing and violation of Israel’s air space, another. The daily added that Israel’s meteorological services were quite effective, and its weather reports readily available to American meteorologists without the need for them to send planes into the sensitive Middle East area.
The Herut newspaper commented that “we cannot escape the impression that the civilian planes with photographic equipment that ‘lost their way’ in the skies over the Negev came with the intention of making sure that we were ‘behaving ourselves.’