WASHINGTON (Oct. 22)
Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban met today with President Johnson and Secretary of State Rusk in separate meetings. He later expressed hope that negotiations will soon move forward on Israel’s bid to buy Phantom fighter-bombers.
Mr. Eban, who conferred alone with Mr. Johnson at the White House, said the President told him that he would be glad to receive a visit from Prime Minister Levi Eshkol on his way to Latin America. Mr. Eshkol is slated to visit the U.S. in December.
The Foreign Minister said he expressed to the President his appreciation for Mr. Johnson’s Oct. 9 statement instructing the State Department to hold negotiations with Israel on the F-4 jets it has sought for more than a year. The Eban-Rusk meeting was described as marking the opening of negotiations on the 50 Phantoms. Mr. Eban said that after this “first stage,” other stages would follow. Israel’s Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin will represent his country at the next step of what was described “substantive” negotiations. Mr. Eban expressed hope that there would not be long, drawn-out negotiations and that the next stage would be reached in a matter of days. While Gen. Rabin was not present at the White House discussion, he did participate in the Rusk meeting. Each meeting lasted about an hour.
Mr. Eban told newsmen he gave the President “a detailed account of our efforts to explore avenues to peace at the United Nations including utilization of contacts with Ambassador (Gunnar V.) Jarring.” He said that he told Mr. Johnson it was “necessary not only to explore peace but to foreclose the prospect of war.” Mr. Eban gained the impression that the meeting with the President indicated continuity of “solid friendship and sympathy” linking the U.S. with Israel. He said that in both meetings the topics included not only the Phantoms but the prospects for regional peace including the current work of Dr. Jarring. Reporters asked Mr. Eban if he had any doubts that the Phantoms would be delivered. He said, “we take the President’s statement very seriously” and voiced hope that negotiations would lead to fulfillment of Israel’s needs. He likened the discussions to talks two years ago when Israel sought to purchase subsonic Skyhawk aircraft from the U.S.