WASHINGTON (Jan. 6)
Israel’s charge d’affaires expressed confidence yesterday that the United States would not let his nation’s attack on Beirut International Airport block the sale to Israel of 50 supersonic F-4 Phantom jets. Appearing on a local television program, Shlomo Argov said he was certain that “your Government, having made an agreement, will live up to it.” Rumors circulated here however, that Israel has been informed that delivery of the jets must be left for final approval to the incoming Nixon Administration.
He was asked if the timing for the Dec. 28 reprisal raid affected the U.S. decision, announced a day earlier, to sell the Phantoms to Israel. “The timing was not of our own choice — it was glued to the Athens incident,” he said. “We launched this operation to make the Lebanese realize the consequences of acting as hosts to these kinds of people,” he said. Israel claims the two Arab terrorists who attacked an El Al airliner in Athens, killing one Israeli and injuring two others, came from Beirut. The reprisal raid by helicopter-borne Israeli commandos destroyed 13 Arab airliners. Israeli diplomatic sources in Washington, said the U.S. never raised the subject of the Phantoms to Israel after the Beirut raid despite the fact that it lodged a strong protest with Israel.