JERUSALEM (Aug. 18)
For the time being, Israel will not permit any foreign air attache to make a close examination of the Soviet-made MIG-21 jet fighter which an Iraqi air force captain surrendered to Israel this week, when he sought asylum in this country.
Col. Mordechai Hod, commander of Israel’s air force, which has custody of the Soviet-made plane at one of Israel’s air bases, said this morning: “Only Israeli experts, and they alone, will examine the plane.” The statement was understood as meaning that United States air attaches here, who have repeatedly sought an opportunity to examine the plane since it was landed in Israel, will not be permitted yet to scrutinize the MIG and its equipment.
An American air attache told newsmen here today that Israel’s acquisition of a MIG-21 is “most important and most interesting.” French circles here and in Paris have described the Israeli possession of the plane as an “enormous intelligence victory.” It was noted here by experts that Israel is now the only non-Communist and non-Arab country in possession of a MIG-21. It was reported here today that, some time ago, the United States offered $1, 000, 000 for the acquisition of a MIG-21.
Meanwhile, two of the left-wing parties in the Government coalition — Achdut Avodah and Mapam — have already indicated energetically that they would oppose Israel’s passing on to any foreign government any details concerning the MIG. Such action, these parties hold, would seriously affect Israel’s relations with the Soviet Union. Achdut Avodah’s organ, the daily newspaper Lamerhav, called on the Government in an editorial today “not to reveal any of the MIG’s secrets to anyone.” Any breach of this rule, Lamerhav warned, could be “disastrous” to Israeli-Soviet relations.
Not only will Israel, at this time, turn down any Western requests for examining the plane, but it will reject firmly any request that Iraq might possibly make through the United Nations for the return to Baghdad of the aircraft and the defecting air force officer. (At the United Nations, it was confirmed today that a member of the Iraqi delegation had consulted Secretary-General U Thant about the defection of the Iraqi pilot with his MIG-21, surrendering both himself and the aircraft to Israel. However, a U. N. spokesman declined to say whether Iraq has demanded U. N. intervention to have the plane and pilot returned by Israel.)
It was noted here today by air experts that the MIG-21 now in Israel’s hands is the latest model of this powerful Soviet jet fighter, including many improvements in its equipment. France and Britain, it was said, are also interested in the plane’s details, as is the United States, due to the MIG-21’s secrets, which combine highest efficiency with economy of operation.