WASHINGTON (Sep. 7)
The State Department confirmed yesterday that the first consignment of supersonic F-4 Phantom jet fighter-bombers has been delivered to Israel. The State Department announcement was made in response to questions about a report in the semi-official Cairo newspaper Al Ahram that the first consignment reached Israel on Friday. It did not mention the number of aircraft in the initial delivery. According to Al Ahram, Israel received 10 to 16 of the planes. An Egyptian Government spokesman denounced the delivery which he said destroyed the last hope for peace in the Middle East.
The deliveries were made pursuant to an agreement of last Dec. 20 by which Israel will purchase 50 Phantoms valued at $200 million. A State Department official said the deliveries will be completed within one year.
The first planes of the Phantom type to arrive in Israel will be used by the Israel Air Force to train pilots to fly the highly sophisticated aircraft which can attain speeds twice that of sound. One group of Israeli pilots recently completed its training in Phantoms at an Air Force base in California and has returned to Israel. It is believed that they will constitute the training cadre for other Israeli pilots.
The Phantom is the fastest, most modern and most complex warplane in Israel’s possession. It is believed to equal or exceed the performance of Soviet-built MIG-21 interceptors used by the Egyptian Air Force. According to recent reports, Israel’s Premier Golda Meir will press for the sale of an additional 25 Phantoms and 80 Sky hawk lightweight attack bombers when she meets with President Richard M. Nixon on her official visit to Washington later this month. Mechanics and technicians sent by the Israel Air Force have been trained in the U.S. for the maintenance of the new jets.
According to reports from Cairo, the Egyptian spokesman, Monir Hafez, said the sale of the Phantoms to Israel was intended to force the Arabs into accepting a “peace which would be a surrender to all American desires which are identical with those of Israel.” He said the Israeli-American “collusion knows no limits in obstructing implementation of the United Nations Nov. 1967 resolution.” By Arab interpretation, the resolution demands Israel’s unconditional withdrawal from all Arab territories occupied in the June, 1967 war. “It is this unlimited support (by the United States) which encourages Israel to commit further acts of aggression and enhances its hopes for further ambitions,” Hafez said.