WASHINGTON (May. 3)
There has not been, and there is not today, a major threat of military action against Israel, John D. Jernegan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, said today addressing the National Policy Conference of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee. He also commented on Israel’s growing economic strength.
American diplomatic efforts, he stated, are concentrated now on encouraging restraint on Israel and the Arabs in connection with the Jordan River water issue. He reported that the likelihood of an early outbreak of serious fighting over the water dispute seems to have receded. Reviewing the water problem at length, Mr. Jernegan reiterated American opposition to the use of force, including the use of military measures by Israel to prevent Arab blockage of the waters flowing into Israel.
Citing the dangers of an Arab-Israel arms race, especially pertaining to escalation of weapons to more sophisticated types, Mr. Jernegan described U.S. opposition to any idea that missiles or nuclear weapons should be introduced into the area. He said this was American policy not only in the Near East but in all parts of the world where such weapons are not already in the hands of local governments. He voiced hope that Near Eastern states with nuclear capabilities would extend the area of their agreement to international atomic energy control procedures.
Mr. Jernegan said there had been no basic change in U.S. approach to the Near Eastern situation. He said American policy remained one of balance and even-handedness, aimed at preventing Communist penetration, maintenance of peace, continued flow of Arab oil to the free world, free communications through the area, and promotion of U.S. commerce with all countries of the area. He noted trends leading to greater cooperation among the Arab states as well as contrary trends indicated persistence of unresolved differences.
CLAIMS ISRAEL HAS ADEQUATE ARMS SOURCES; SAYS NO CAUSE FOR ALARM
In a letter to Philip Slomovitz, editor and publisher of the Jewish News in Detroit, Mr. Jernegan said today that Israel has adequate arms sources, is “fully capable” of defending itself despite the “very substantial” Soviet shipments to the Arabs, and that “there is no cause for Israeli alarm at the present time.”
Mr. Jernegan commented on figures published by the Jewish News enumerating categories of Soviet arms arriving in Egypt. He said “there is no doubt that the flow of Communist arms to the Near East has been very substantial.” But he did not think this demonstrated “the existence of an imbalance as between the Arab states and Israel.”
The State Department official insisted that “it must be borne in mind that Israel has its own sources of supply in the West and has been able to maintain an armed force which impartial observers, as well as Arab leaders, consider to be fully capable of defending the country against any Arab attack which might be mounted against it.”