WASHINGTON (Oct. 13)
A State Department spokesman said Friday that Secretary of State Dean Rusk will probably meet with Israeli Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin this week to discuss arrangements for the negotiations that President Johnson directed Mr. Rusk to open with Israel for the sale of American supersonic military aircraft to that country. But a Washington columnist considered an authority on U.S. military affairs charged that the Johnson directive was a “stalling ploy” prompted by election-year politics and expressed doubt that Israel would receive the jet planes from this Administration.
According to Robert J. McCloskey, the Department spokesman, the Rusk-Rabin meeting would probably deal with such details as when and where to begin actual negotiations and at what level the talks should be conducted. Other Department officials have explained that detailed deliberations were necessary to establish Israel’s needs with respect to the number and type of jets and terms and conditions of sale. Israel has requested 50 F-4 Phantom jet fighter-bombers, considered to be the best fully operational aircraft of its type in the American arsenal. President Johnson’s announcement directing negotiations did not specify what type of plane was involved but observers here are virtually certain that he had the Phantoms in mind.
Col. Robert S. Allen, a syndicated columnist who is known to have access to the highest U.S. military circles, claimed that the Johnson announcement was “largely window dressing” and actually means very little. Col. Allen, who has long advocated the supply of Phantoms to Israel, noted that there was nothing in the President’s announcement that “commits him to approve the sale…He did not even put a time limit on the duration of the so-called negotiations.” The columnist pointed out that “as the President has only three more months in office, it would not be too difficult for the State Department to prolong negotiations beyond that time. The election is one month off and on the basis of Johnson’s record on this issue, the odds are against his authorizing a sale.” Col. Allen said the President’s announcement was made under political pressure for some sort of gesture. The sale of Phantom jets to Israel has been urged by Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey and Richard M. Nixon, the Democratic and Republican Presidential nominees, and by leading Senators and Representatives of both parties. Col. Allen wrote, “there is virtually nothing to negotiate…All that stands in the way of a sales agreement is the President’s authorizing of an export license for the planes.”
(In Haifa, Deputy Premier Yigal Allon said he expected negotiations for the projected sale of Phantom jet planes to Israel to begin soon and that the talks would deal with such specifies as payments and delivery details.)