WASHINGTON (Sep. 18)
Department of Defense officials said today, in comment on reports that Israel had been assured two squadrons of the Skyhawk jet attack bombers would be delivered to Israel this Autumn, that no decision had been made on the shipment of these planes.
State Department officials said that no shipment of the Skyhawks to Israel was presently contemplated and that there had been no change in the situation since Sept. 8 when Secretary of State Dean Rusk said the question of arms shipments to the Middle East was under review.
The Administration proclaimed an embargo on arms shipments to the Middle East on June 5 when the Arab-Israeli war broke out, but Defense Department officials said today that the United States might relax this embargo soon, permitting shipment of arms to Israel and possibly other Middle Eastern countries, including Jordan, but they stressed that the whole question remained under review.
Israeli sources here said today that the Government of Israel had contracted in the Spring of 1966 to purchase a number of combat aircraft from the United States and that there was no reason to believe that these aircraft will not be delivered in accordance with this agreement.
Israel, it was recalled, ordered the two squadrons of the Skyhawks at that time. It was understood that, because of American priority needs, the planes were not to be delivered until this Autumn.
LICENSES MAY DEPEND ON ISRAEL’S ‘FLEXIBILITY,’ STATE DEPT. HINTS
In a later development today, State Department sources said that export licenses for the jet bombers sought by Israel would not be automatically granted, but that they would depend on various political factors and on Israeli flexibility.
It was made clear that, among other considerations to be weighed, is the degree to which Israel accepts U.S. views on the occupied territories, particularly the west bank of the Jordan River and East Jerusalem. Another factor is the treatment of Arab refugees and their freedom to return to the west bank area. An additional consideration will be the Israeli attitude towards forthcoming United Nations decisions–if the U.S. feels such decisions contribute to peace and justice for all the peoples of the Middle East.
Washington believes that, if the U.N. agrees on desirable resolutions to pacify Middle East tensions, by means of a step-by-step movement away from the present cease-fire status, then some “realistic” concessions may be required of Israel. The U.S. continues to be mindful of the need to avoid returning to the circumstances which prevailed prior to June 5, but officials today referred to another need — for compromise by Israel, as well as by the Arabs.
(In Israel, all newspapers prominently featured reports from Washington that the United States would honor its commitment to deliver the Skyhawk bombers but there was no local comment. It was recalled that Foreign Minister Abba S. Eban told a press conference two weeks ago that he hoped the United States would supply the arms it had promised and that dialogue on the question was continuing. He said then that the facts in the matter would emerge later in the year.)