JERUSALEM (Mar. 11)
The Israeli Cabinet met in special session today to consider President Richard M. Nixon’s unexplained delay in announcing his decision on Israel’s request to purchase more American Phantom and Skyhawk jets. The delay was viewed with “misgivings” according to diplomatic sources here. But the Foreign Ministry categorically denied reports today that Israel’s Ambassador in Washington, Yitzhak Rabin, was being called home for urgent consultations. President Nixon said at a press conference on Jan. 30 that the United States would supply arms to friendly governments, like Israel’s, for defense. He said a decision on the Phantoms would be made within 30 days. Dr. William Wexler, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and national president of B’nai B’rith, told newsmen at Lydda Airport that the delay in President Nixon’s announcement should not cause any anxiety here. “The U.S. is a true friend of Israel and will see that Israel maintains military superiority,” he said. Dr. Wexler arrived here for the B’nai B’rith conference which opens in Jerusalem Sunday.
(Secretary of State William P. Rogers has emerged as the chief proponent of delay on the presidential decision to meet Israel’s request for additional Phantom and Sky hawk jets, it was learned today. President Nixon’s deferment of a decision on the Israeli request was described as in large part due to the State Department’s objections to an affirmative action at this time. The Department, and Mr. Rogers were described as influenced in no small part by Soviet intimations that the Soviet Union was holding up further arms shipments to Egypt with the implied threat that the shipments would be renewed if the United States announced it would send more planes to Israel.
The State Department also wants to use the possibility of selling the planes to Israel as a lever to ensure Israel’s compliance with strong U.S. urgings for restraint in dealing with Lebanon and the terrorist bases on Lebanese soil. The Department of Defense and the military and intelligence agencies were reported to be in favor of meeting the Israeli requests for planes and the White House is being subjected to strong pressure from Congress where many members are actively pressing for aid to Israel.)