71 Senators Sign Letter to Rogers Urging Immediate Sale of Jets to Israel

More than two-thirds of the United States Senate, 71 Senators by late this afternoon, signed a letter to be submitted tomorrow to Secretary of State William P. Rogers urging the Nixon administration’s immediate approval of the sale of more combat jets to Israel in view of the growing Soviet military buildup in the Middle East and the “growing military imbalance in favor of the Arab states.” The letter also calls for NATO consultation on the buildup and for a meeting between the Senators and Mr. Rogers. Additional signatures are expected to be added by tomorrow. The letter will be followed with the introduction on the Senate floor of a bi-partisan resolution urging President Nixon to call upon the Soviet Union to withdraw its forces from Egypt as “a major step toward the encouragement of peace in the Middle East.” The resolution is sponsored jointly by Sen. Hugh Scott, of Pennsylvania, the Senate Republican Minority leader and Sen. Walter F. Mondale, of Minnesota, a Democrat. The letter to Mr. Rogers, which was delivered late this afternoon by Senators Stuart Symington, Democrat of Missouri and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Scott to H.G. Torbert, acting Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations, declares that the lawmakers are “compelled to express a sense of urgency” regarding the Soviet military buildup in the Middle East.

The letter notes that the Soviet Union is now playing a direct combat role in the Middle East with Russian pilots flying jets over Egypt and warned that this poses a “challenge” to American strategic interests and a growing threat to world peace. It stresses that the situation shows that President Nixon’s decision to withhold sale of jets to Israel did not persuade the Soviets to limit their role in the Mideast. The letter urges the U.S. to take counter-action now as the “best way to prevent the outbreak of hostilities.” According to sources, the White House has indicated informally that it would welcome the letter from the Senators. The letter originally had 10 sponsors which included Edward W. Brooke, Republican of Massachusetts, Herman E. Talmadge, Democrat of Georgia, Jacob K. Javits, Republican of New York, Abraham A. Ribicoff, Connecticut Democrat, Symington and Scott. Several of the Senators circulated the letter in the Senate and it was taken up at the weekly Senate Republican policy meeting last week by Senators Scott and Javits. It has since been endorsed by Senators who differ widely on many other issues, principally the war in Indo-China. They include Sens. Edmund S. Muskie, Maine Democrat; Barry Goldwater, Arizona Republican; Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat; George S. McGovern, Democrat of South Dakota; and Strom Thurmond, South Carolina Republican.

Sen. Robert P. Griffin, of Michigan, the Republican Minority Whip, did not sign the letter, according to Senate sources because he felt it might seem to be an infringement on executive prerogatives that Republicans have been defending in Cambodia. But other sources said the administration would welcome the letter as strengthening its hand in the talks scheduled for this week on the Mideast with Soviet Ambassador Anatoly F. Dobrynin. The letter does not state the specific number of planes to be sold to Israel. Some of its sponsors believe the administration will approve at least enough planes to make up for Israel’s battle losses. At the founding convention of the American Zionist Federation, Sen. Scott said yesterday, “The Russians already have done too much.” The text of the Scott-Mondale resolution reads: “Resolved that it is the sense of the Senate that the introduction of Russian pilots and the manning of missile sites by Russian technicians in the United Arab Republic is contributing to the increased tension in the Middle East, and the President is strongly urged to call upon the Soviet Union to withdraw all Russian personnel as a major step toward the encouragement of peace in the Middle East.”

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