PARIS (Oct. 20)
Marcel Dassault, whose company produces the Mirage jet fighter plane which is the backbone of Israel’s Air Force, told a press conference here that the sale of 50 Mirage-V jets to Israel was barred last June by President Charles De Gaulle because “they are offensive attack planes.” Israel ordered and paid for the planes which now are housed – complete with Israeli Air Force markings — at airports in southern France. The manufacturer also said that if Israel was ever in danger it would get the 50 planes and he added that Israel had obtained from France since the June, 1967 war “all the necessary defensive weapons” it needed. The manufacturer, a confidante of Gen. de Gaulle, enumerated the defensive weapons as “helicopters and certain other planes, electronic equipment and probably even tanks.
Meanwhile two deputies belonging to the usually-well disciplined Gaullist majority submitted questions to the Government in the Chamber of Deputies asking the Government to end the embargo on the jets in order “to reestablish a balance of force” between Israel and the Arab states. The deputies stressed that the recent heavy arms deliveries to Egypt had tipped the balance of power which France has sought to maintain the Middle East and that Israel was now in a position of inferiority in air strength.
Observers here emphasized that it was unusual for Gaullist representatives to question the President’s policies and they suggested that the deputies’ actions might be an indication of general unrest on the embargo among Gaullist rank and file members. Dassault rejected reports that France might sell Mirages to Iraq, declaring that Iraq could get much cheaper Soviet-made MIGs and that such a sale “would be unsuitable, as Israel has a priority,” on such planes.