Wilson Says Elath Attack May Have Been Soviet Test of American Stand

The ranking minority member of the House Armed Services Committee said today on the House floor that the attack on the Israeli destroyer Elath may have been a deliberate Soviet test of American response to the use of guided missiles against ships with “very serious implications” for American vessels off North Viet Nam.

Rep. Bob Wilson, of California, said that the Russians may have decided to experiment with anti-ship missiles in the Middle East because of “a belief that the United States would seek to avoid a confrontation because of the Administration’s ambiguous and vague commitments to Israel.” He warned that “the presence of Russian men and ships could cause the conflict (in the Middle East) to escalate in a manner disadvantageous to both Israel and the United States.” He asserted that “it seems as if the Russians are going to make Port Said into a second Haiphong for a test case to see whether they can establish a privileged sanctuary in the Mediterranean.”

The California Republican said that “the very least we must do is to supply the Israelis with effective weapons to counter the new Soviet-Arab offensive buildup.” He warned that if the Russians won a show of strength in the Elath incident, “the lesson will not be lost on the Arabs and the Mediterranean peoples.”

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