WASHINGTON (Jul. 2)
The Republican leadership in the House of Representatives responded today to Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin’s proposal to slacken the arms race in the Middle East with a new demand for the immediate sale of supersonic Phantom jet fighter-bombers to Israel to restore the balance of power before any arms freeze is considered. A group of House Democrats joined the Republicans in urging the sale of the jets, which had been requested by Prime Minister Levi Eshkol during his meeting with President Johnson at the LBJ Ranch last January. The Administration was reserved in its reaction to the latest Soviet proposal and gave no indication today about how it might respond.
A Soviet memorandum, issued today,”supports proposals concerning the implementation of measures for regional disarmament and for reduction of armaments in various regions of the world including the Middle East.” The question of slackening the Middle East arms race “could be considered only in conditions of the elimination of the consequences of the Israeli aggression against the Arab countries and, above all, the full evacuation of the Israeli forces from the territories of Arab countries occupied by them,” the Soviet note said.
House Republican Minority leader, Gerald R. Ford, of Michigan, announced today that he is co-sponsoring a resolution introduced by Rep. William Broomfield, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and also a Michigan Republican. It demands that the Administration act on the long deferred Israeli application for the Phantoms. Rep. Broomfield, who visited Israel after last year’s Six-Day War, said today that “the Russians have irresponsibly poured hundreds of the latest types of supersonic jet fighters and bombers into-radical Arab states while the U.S. Administration has refused to provide Israel with the 50 Phantoms she desperately requires.”
He said that the Russians are now talking about “slackening” the Middle East arms race because Egypt has received more jets and sophisticated weapons that it can digest at this point. Moscow obviously wants to call a convenient so-called freeze so that the U.S. will not sell the Phantoms to Israel, he said.
ISRAELI CIRCLES SEE KOSYGIN MOVE AS ‘POLITICAL MANEUVER’
(In Jerusalem today, semi-official circles described as “a political maneuver” the proposal by Mr. Kosygin. They recalled the speed with which the Soviet Union had pumped new arms and munitions into the Arab countries immediately after the Six-Day War and pointed out that the Soviet shipment of arms had been so great that the neighboring Arab states today have a four-to-one superiority in aircraft over Israel. Before the war last year, the Arab superiority was three-to-one.
(Political circles here said that Mr. Kosygin had made public his Middle East proposal as an additional proof to the U.S. of the Soviet Union’s peace intentions and also to drives wedge between Washington and Jerusalem. Israelis expressed confidence that Washington would not enter into any deal with the Kremlin that would turn out to be one-sided. It was pointed out that nowhere in the Soviet proposals was there any provision for mutual or international inspection of the progress of disarmament. It was stressed that the Kremlin had consistently turned a deaf ear to various suggestions made by the U.S. since the war for limitation on arms shipments.)
(Israelis also sharply objected to the Soviet attempt to force Israel to accept the pre-June, 1967 armistice lines as Israel’s borders. The Kosygin memorandum, by Soviet interpretations, called on Israel to return unconditionally to the pre-war lines. But the United Nations Security Council of Nov. 22, 1967, they said, called for boundaries to be determined by agreement between Israel and its neighboring states. Israel, it was stated, favors disarmament as a matter of principle and has proposed on many occasions, mutual disarmament and inspection with the Arab states.)
The Republican House leadership said today its position is that Israel should not evacuate any territory in response to a Soviet demand of this type and that any boundary settlement must be the result of direct negotiations in the context of a general peace settlement. Sen. Robert P. Griffin, another Michigan Republican, introduced a resolution recently that differed from today’s stand by House Republicans and which was endorsed by 11 Senators. It called for an American-Soviet agreement to freeze arms shipments to the Middle East. Presidential adviser Walt W. Rostow wrote Sen. Griffin at the time he offered the bill that the idea was similar to one proposed by President Johnson on June 19, 1967 but not accepted by the Russians. That proposal called for public disclosure of all Middle East arms shipments. Defense Department officials said today the Russian freeze maneuver was perilous to Israel because Russia would not hesitate to pour more arms into the leftist Arab states as soon as present supplies are absorbed, while U.S. deliveries to Israel would be inhibited. The Moscow correspondent of the Washington Post pointed out today that Mr. Kosygin’s proposals on arms limitation came just four days after Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko had hinted publicly that Moscow might be ready to join in a great-power guarantee of the Arab-Israeli frontiers and almost on the eve of the Moscow visit of President Nasser of Egypt.
Two New York Democrats, Rep. Bertram Podell and Rep. Benjamin Rosenthal, warned of possible trickery in the Soviet proposal. Mr. Podell said that the Soviet “hints” about an arms limitation must not be permitted to jeopardize Israel’s security. Mr. Rosenthal, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the sale of the Phantoms to Israel remained a matter of “top priority.”