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Eban Reiterates Delivery Plans for Phantom Jets Are on Schedule

Foreign Minister Abba Eban assured the Knesset yesterday that preparations for the delivery of 50 U.S. Phantom jet fighter bombers to Israel were proceeding smoothly and on schedule. He said all phases of the agreement with the United States for Israel’s purchase of the supersonic warplanes were being implemented without delays or obstacles.

Mr. Eban called on the public not to regard news items attributed to “political circles” as emanating from the Foreign Ministry. He said that some Israeli and foreign journalists often attribute their private views to un-named “political circles.” He said there was no substance to rumors of a possible breach in U.S.-Israel friendship in the near future.

Commenting on the Big Power efforts to find a Mideast solution, Mr. Eban said nothing was to be gained by transforming the Two Power and Four Power discussions at one site into a series of private dialogues moving from capital to capital. He said the U.S.-Soviet bilateral talks had reached an impasse because the Soviet Union and Egypt refused to accept American proposals. He said that while the latter were not identical with Israel’s views, they contained a number of important peace principles and minimum security conditions which the Soviets and Egyptians have rejected. The Foreign Minister said that despite Moscow’s negative reply, the Americans want to continue the talks on grounds that the very fact they are continuing will “keep the lid on” the Middle East.

The Foreign Minister also asserted that Gunnar I. Jarring, the special United Nations Mideast peace envoy, had reached the conclusion that his mission “makes no sense” without a direct meeting of Israel and the Arab states. He made that statement in an interview with the Jewish Observer and Middle East Review to be published tomorrow. Noting that the Jarring mission had been suspended for the Big Power talks, he added that the Four Powers had taken the peace initiative from Israel and the Arabs by introducing the idea of a settlement imposed by external forces which he called a “great error” leading to the loss of “much time.”

Asserting that the Big Four talks had created “a dangerous illusion,” he said that the status quo was not to the Arabs’ advantage “but they have been given an escape route away from the hard choice they must make.” He expressed the view that United States officials were beginning to realize they were mistaken in believing that Soviet Russia was the key to Middle East peace. At the moment, however, he added, it appeared that the United States “would like to have another try with the Soviet Union before it despairs completely.”

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