WASHINGTON (Oct. 17)
State Department officials said today that detailed consultation with congressional leaders would have to precede any decision on Israel’s desire to purchase military equipment in this country. The question of supply of weapons to Israel, they said, remained “under study” along with the question of supplying arms to the Kingdom of Jordan, despite the resupply of arms to the Arabs by the Soviet Union.
The State Department, in stressing the need for consultations, argued that Congress was opposed to further arms sales to Israel and quoted complaints about American shipment of weapons to both sides in the Indian-Pakistani and Arab-Israeli conflicts. Consequently, Department officials said, they must consult with ranking members of the Senate and House committees on foreign affairs, appropriations and armed services before any decisions are reached.
(In Jerusalem, reports circulated that the Soviet Union had supplied Egypt with ground-to-ground missiles which, one military source said, could revolutionize military strategy in the Middle East.)
The State Department position was vehemently challenged today in a House speech by Rep. Seymour Halpern, N.Y. Rep., who charged that the State Department was using Congress “as an excuse for failing to meet the Administration’s commitment of the Spring of 1966 to sell two squadrons of the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk jet bombers to Israel.” He said Israel needed the craft to offset losses it incurred in the Six-Day War and he noted that France refused to supply replacements.
The New Yorker said that “some concern was expressed in the Congress that the Administration secretly financed arms sales to the Arabs through the U.S. Export-Import Bank. The State Department has seized on this to misinterpret the concern of the Congress and to use it as a pretext for holding back on the promised shipment of the jets. It was never the intention of the Congress to obstruct the arming of Israel.”