Nixon Says No to Jets for Israel; Goldberg Criticizes Decision and Calls for Reversal
Menu JTA Search

Nixon Says No to Jets for Israel; Goldberg Criticizes Decision and Calls for Reversal

Download PDF for this date

Arthur J. Goldberg, former United States Supreme Court Justice and Just-announced Democratic candidate for the governorship of New York, disagreed Sunday with President Nixon’s decision not to sell Jets to Israel at this time. “The Soviet Union is heavily Involved in the Middle East,” Mr. Goldberg said on NBC-TVs “Meet the Press,” and Jets for Israel are “essential in terms of keeping the peace.” Declaring himself in favor of a Mideast arms limitation, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and former Secretary of Labor nonetheless stated that “no imbalance should be permitted” and that “nobody should be encouraged to make war.” Mr. Goldberg also compared the reported recent deliveries of Soviet SAM-s anti-aircraft missiles to Egypt with similar shipments to Vietnam, and suggested that they were antagonistic to peace.

The Nixon Administration’s decision not to meet Israel’s request for more war planes at this time is expected to be announced formally tomorrow by Secretary of State William P. Rogers. But President Nixon all but disclosed It in advance at an Impromptu press conference here yesterday. In a lengthy statement on the Mideast and in reply to three questions from newsmen, the President hinted strongly at a negative reply to Israel’s request made many months ago to purchase 35 more supersonic F-4 Phantom Jets and about 100 more of the slower A-4 Sky hawk. However, the President did not rule out specifically the possibility that the U.S. might to along with at least part of Israel’s request. He stressed that the decision, to be announced by Mr. Rogers was an interim one based “on our present appraisal of the balance of power in the Mideast” and indicated that It could be reversed on short notice If Israel’s present aerial superiority over the Arabs seemed in Jeopardy.

(Meanwhile, a plan to utilize NATO air power to guarantee future frontiers in the Mideast emerged In Brussels over the week-end. The plan calls for the deployment of about 250 fighter-bombers from

NATO countries on the fringes of the Mideast, to go Into action in the event that either Israel or the Arab countries gained air superiority in a resumption of full scale warfare. The plan was authored by Sir Anthony Buzzard, a retired British admiral and former director of naval intelligence who is chairman of the British Council of Churches advisory committee on the Mideast. According to reports, the British and World Council of Churches have shown interest in the plan and so have a number of Labor and Conservative members of the British Parliament and French, Italian and Turkish diplomats and politicians. The plan has reportedly been favorably received by the Assembly of the Western European Union. In effect, its supporters say, it would establish a reliable external guarantee of the frontiers envisaged in the United Nations Security Council’s Nov. 22. 1967 Mideast resolution. Reports of the Buzzard plan made public so far do not indicate who would man the NATO aircraft should they be employed in a Mideast conflict. The plan appears to envisage the planes as a deterrent rather than an actual combat force.)


President Nixon referred to the reported arrival of SAM-3 missiles and Soviet technicians in Egypt as “disturbing.” He said the reports were received after the decision on Israel’s request for more jets had been made. However, those reports had not persuaded him to change his decision. He said that, “as of the present time, and considering our present evaluation, (they) do not indicate a significant shift in the balance.” Mr. Nixon warned the Soviet Union however that any effort to upset the present balance would bring a swift U.S. response. He said that in the absence of a general Mideast settlement, the best way to deter an intensification of passions which could lead to a major war was keeping a military balance to discourage both sides from embarking on “an aggressive course.” One newsman questioned the French sale of Mirage jets to Libya. Mr. Nixon said the French position was that its deliveries to Libya were not “for the purpose of transshipment, basically to the United Arab Republic.” He noted that France was one of the participants in the Four Power Mideast talks and he believed it recognized the danger of any arms shipments to the area “which imperils the balance of power increases the danger of war.” Mr. Nixon said, “I think that France, in its shipments over the next few years, will be guided by that principle as we are.”

Some Washington observers saw in the Nixon decision a cautious first step toward limiting the arms race in the Mideast–one that could be quickly reversed if the Soviets, the Arabs’ chief arms suppliers, were to ignore it. New York Times Washington correspondent Tad Szulc called it “the subtlest foreign policy maneuver thus far undertaken by the Nixon Administration and it is quite conceivable to its authors that it may end up an abominable failure.” According to Mr. Szulc, “The United States regards the ultimate stakes in the Middle East as to be so high as to justify the risk of a temporary strategic error that can always be corrected by an emergency recourse to new options…Mr. Nixon is portrayed here as being ready to pay the price of anger on the part of both the Arabs and the Israelis in seeking to defuse the Middle Eastern crisis and prevent it from escalating into a Soviet-American confrontation,” Mr. Szulc wrote.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund