PHILADELPHIA (Sep. 24)
Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir arrived at International Airport this afternoon and was given a warm welcome from Pennsylvania officialdom and the Jewish community. She arrived against a background of what was believed to be the heaviest security precautions ever taken at the airport here, reports JTA Washington correspondent Milton Friedman.
As a United States Marine Corps helicopter hovered overhead, police with dogs combed nearby woods, boats equipped with machine guns cruised in a river near the airport, and heavy patrols of police screened the route and building tops between the airport and Independence Hall downtown.
While the security arrangements gave a grim tone to Mrs. Meir’s arrival, it did not inhibit the joy of the welcoming crowd. The security was iron-clad because of Arab terrorist depredations in Europe in recent months, especially at airports.
The Premier appeared especially impressed by the thousands of Jewish children who gathered at the airport and welcomed her with Hebrew songs. Mrs. Meir said at the airport, “I would not wish myself something more exciting and more meaningful than to come to Philadelphia as the first stop of this visit at the invitation of your President. This great city is meaningful not only to your nation but to the world. I come from the Eternal City of Peace, Jerusalem; I bring greetings to the City of Brotherly Love where independence was declared not only for the people of the United States but for all humanity.”May you and we and all mankind have peace and brotherly love,” she said.
The welcoming group was led by Pennsylvania Gov. Raymond Shafer, Mayor James Tate, Israel Foreign Minister Abba, Eban, Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin, and a large delegation of Israeli and Jewish personages.
The Jewish school children carried signs that drew the amused attention of officials. They said: “We dig Golda — Get the Jets.” “Golda–As Good as Gold, the Weapons as Good as Sold.” “Good Luck in Washington,” “Israel for Us,” and “Shalom Golda.” A Philadelphia high school band played nearby with majorettes dancing go-go steps to military marches.
Mrs. Yitzhak Rabin, the Ambassador’s wife, kissed and embraced Mrs. Meir and presented a bouquet of flowers on behalf of Israelis in the United States. Two pretty young Hebrew school girls presented Mrs. Meir with a Bible and she embraced both. The visitors stood as “Hatikvah” and the “Stat Spangled Banner” were played.
Mrs. Meir will leave Philadelphia Thursday morning by a Marine Corps helicopter which will fly directly to the White House lawn where she will be received by President Nixon in an official state ceremony. She will then open discussions with the President.
Mrs. Meir’s meeting with Nixon and other U.S. Government leaders will be the first between an Israeli Premier and a U.S. President since the late Levi Eshkol met with President Lyndon B. Johnson at the latter’s Texas ranch in January, 1968.
Sources in Israel said that Mrs. Meir will ask for more Phantom and Sky hawk jets, Hawk ground-to-air missiles and U.S. financial assistance to pay for them when she meets President Nixon.
She was expected to base her arms requests on the need to maintain a military balance in the Middle East which now quantitatively favors the Arabs. But Israel cannot afford to pay cash for the 85 additional Sky hawks and 20 Phantoms it reportedly wants because of a $150 million drop in the country’s foreign currency reserves in the last four months. Israel has $200 million tied up in France for 50 Mirage jets which the French Government refuses to deliver and has paid another $200 million to the U.S. for 50 Phantoms, the first of which were delivered this month. Israel has received about $25 billion in U.S. aid in the past 20 years, most of it in development loans at increasingly more difficult terms.
The Israeli sources said Mrs. Meir would also discuss Israel-Jordan relations with Mr. Nixon. Israel’s permission for Jordan to repair the damaged East Ghor irrigation canal this week was seen as a gesture toward the U.S. which originally financed the Jordanian project. The canal was damaged by Israeli jets in July.