JERUSALEM (Jul. 8)
A Foreign Ministry spokesman said here tonight that the supply of an additional quantity of Hawk anti-aircraft missiles by the United States had “no bearing” on the main problems of Israel’s deterrent and defensive power. The spokesman said that the central problem facing Israel is the growing gap, since the June, 1967 Six-Day War, in the number and quality of supersonic planes possessed and being acquired by Egypt and Syria and the number and quality of such plans existing in Israel. He added that it would be wrong to see in the Hawk missiles, the supply of which had been agreed upon for some time, any connection with Israel’s central problem. Nevertheless, he said, the arrangement to supply Israel with the Hawks on credit was received with satisfaction.
These remarks were the first official comment by Israel on the sale of the American surface-to-air missiles which was announced in Washington Saturday. But Israelis seemed divided on how to regard that announcement. Some saw it as an oblique warning to the Arabs and Soviet Russia that the U.S. intends to bolster Israel’s defenses in face of the massive re-arming of her Arab foes. Others, however, took the view that the missile sale was a sop to Israelis and to public opinion at home while the Administration continued to delay action on Israel’s request for 50 F-4 supersonic Phantom jets. America’s most advanced military plane.
The dim view was reportedly shared in Israeli defense circles where the U.S. was charged with “avoiding the real issue.” According to one informant, “the Hawks are a good anti-aircraft defense, but the Phantoms are what Israel really needs.” That view seemed to be implied by this evening’s Foreign Ministry statement.