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United States Faces Further Difficulties on Issue of Military Service

The United States apparently is having little success in its efforts to convince the Arab states that it is not encouraging American citizens to serve in the armed forces of Israel. The U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Charles Yost, sent his second letter on the subject to the president of the Security Council today.

Assistant Secretary of State Joseph J. Sisco explained to the envoys of 10 Arab states at a special meeting in Washington yesterday that, under a 1967 Supreme Court decision, Americans may serve in the armed forces of any non-hostile nation — not only Israel — without automatically forfeiting their citizenship.

The points made by Mr. Sisco were reiterated in Mr. Yost’s letter. He stated that some Americans may be serving in the Israeli Army but this situation could apply to certain Arab armies as well. He stressed that far from encouraging U.S. citizens to serve in foreign armies, the U.S. was discouraging them from such activity. Mr. Sisco also said no U.S. military personnel were serving the Israeli armed forces in any capacity.

The Yost letter was in reply to a second letter to the Security Council from the Egyptian representative, Ambassador Mohammed el-Zayyat. The Egyptians lodged a protest with the Security Council last week following reports that a U.S. Embassy official in Tel Aviv stated that Americans who became Israeli citizens and served in her armed forces would not automatically lose their U.S. citizenship.

That Embassy statement, made in reply to a reporter’s question, was an explanation of the 1967 Supreme Court ruling on the question of dual citizenship. Cairo claimed that it was “proof” that Americans were fighting for Israel and were being encouraged to do so. Similar charges were made by the Governments of Jordan and Libya. The Libyan Ambassador to the UN, Wahbi el-Bouri, protested to the Security Council today against American serving in Israel’s Army.

Ambassador el-Zayyat said in his second letter that “the legal measures (the 1967 Supreme Court decision) referred to clearly opens the door for American citizens to fight under the Israeli flag.” He said “such a serious development, in the opinion of my Government, can lead only to further escalation and disturbing repercussions in our area.” Mr. Sisco warned in Washington yesterday that such “distorted charges seriously impair efforts to create an atmosphere in which a just and lasting peace in the Middle East can be achieved.”

(In Jerusalem yesterday, Israel’s Foreign Minister Abba Eban called Arab charges that Americans were fighting for Israel “grotesque propaganda.” He told a press conference that the number of Americans in Israel’s armed forces was insignificant. Military authorities have estimated it at between 80 and 100.)

The State Department has reportedly started an internal discussion of methods of dissuading young American Jews of draft age from enlisting in Israeli armed forces. Suggestions are being sought from the U.S. Selective Service System. According to informed sources, efforts may be made to discourage young American Jews from emigrating to Israel because their military service there might “embarrass” Arab-American relations.

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