JERUSALEM (Jan. 8)
Israel’s Foreign Ministry denounced the French embargo on the shipment of military materiel to Israel yesterday as “a one-sided and unwarranted annulment of agreements between states” that demonstrated “the will to hurt Israel’s ability to defend herself against the continuing aggression and enmity of the Arab states.” The Foreign Ministry’s statement, released late last night, said French policy has been “steadily approaching that of countries which are the declared enemies of Israel” and declared that the embargo annulled any possibility that the French Government might “fulfill a positive function in the Middle East crisis.” The Cabinet will confer Sunday on what diplomatic action will be taken with respect to France.
(President Charles de Gaulle met with his Cabinet in the Elysee Palace today to discuss the embargo, which stems from the Dec. 28 reprisal raid on Beirut Airport. The de Gaulle embargo on military spare parts and equipment to Israel was under sharp attack in virtually all sections of the French press, except the pro-Arab Communist one. The Soviet Ambassador to Paris, Valerian Zorin, said at a reception yesterday that “other countries, notably the United States, should follow the example of France.” Egypt also praised the de Gaulle move as a “model” for the world. Lebanon also hailed it. The authoritative Cairo newspaper Al Ahram said today that the embargo “clipped the wings” of the Israeli Air Force.)
Defense Ministry circles here said today that while the embargo posed serious problems, Israel had prepared itself for such contingencies by stockpiling aircraft and other spare parts. Industrial and military sources said the country had a sufficient stock of French aircraft parts to last until Israel’s own defense industries could replace them. Yesterday’s Foreign Ministry’s statement noted that Israel “by her own efforts and the optimal use of her international connections is continuing to maintain her defensive strength.”
The reference was to the expansion of Israel’s military industries in recent years and to the expected delivery of 50 supersonic F-4 Phantom jets from the United States. Defense Ministry sources said that local industry can at present meet almost all requirements for spare parts but conceded that the Air Force would be the service most affected by the French embargo. With the exception of American Sky hawks, a subsonic fighter, Israel’s Air Force is composed primarily of several types of French planes.
The Government was reported meanwhile to be considering demanding a refund from France for more than $100 million worth of military equipment ordered and paid for but not delivered. This includes 50 Mirage V supersonic jets that Israel paid for in full last spring but which are being held in a French warehouse. Gen. de Gaulle embargoed the jets following the June, 1967 Arab-Israel War. But that embargo did not include shipment of helicopters, spare parts for Mirages and other French aircraft in Israeli hands.
MAKES PUBLIC INVENTORY OF MATERIEL PURCHASED FROM FRANCE
An inventory of French planes and other military equipment in use by Israel’s armed forces was released today. It included: Ouraganne single-seater jet assault planes–one of the first French aircraft purchased by Israel; Mystere jet interceptors, production of which was discontinued in 1958; Super-mysteres, one of Israel’s fastest interceptors; Vautours, twin-engined, single-seater bomber-interceptors; Fouga-Magysters, a jet trainer also used as an attack plane in the Six-Day War, a type produced by Israel’s aircraft industries under an agreement with the French manufacturer; Nord, twin-engined transport planes; Super-Frelon, heavy helicopters, used as assault ships troop transports: Alouette, small helicopters which are manufactured in several countries; AMX reconnaissance and tank-destroyer armored vehicles which are used in many countries; AML 245 light Panzer (armored) cars used for patrol purposes; SS-11 anti-tank missiles which are in use in at least 18 countries. In addition, according to French newspaper reports, Israel purchased a number of French high speed gunboats for its Navy several months ago.
The chief of Israel’s military purchasing mission in France, Gen. Mordechai Limon, returned home yesterday for urgent consultations with the Defense Ministry and Army officers.
Israel’s dissatisfaction was increased today when it became known here that France has sold large quantities of arms to Arab countries in recent months, including some to Egypt. Some details about the sales were given today by Le Monde which said that 220 half-tracks had been sold to Saudi Arabia in 1968 and 70 vehicles of the same type went to Iraq, which has also opened negotiations for the purchase of 44 Mirage planes. These negotiations have not yet been concluded.
France has already sold and delivered 12 Mirages with special electronic equipment to Lebanon as well as Alouette helicopters to Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Other unconfirmed reports say that a number of Egyptian frogmen are currently being trained in underwater sabotage and harbor penetration at the French naval base of Toulon. France has also secretly sold to Egypt in recent weeks 155-millimeter guns, electronic equipment for ground to ground missiles, and deep armor penetrating shells.
(When questioned by the JTA whether France will halt the supply of these arms to the Arab states Information Minister Joel Le Theule replied, “there is no reason for us to do so as the embargo applies only to countries with aggressive tendencies.”)