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Eban Views Nixon’s Remarks on Mideast As U.S. Commitment to Use Deterrent Power

Foreign Minister Abba Eban said last night that he viewed President Nixon’s recent television remarks on the Middle East as a United States commitment to use its deterrent power, if needed, to prevent Soviet domination of the Middle East. Mr. Eban expressed his opinion in the course of a briefing on the political situation for Knesset members of the Labor Alignment, President Nixon, in a televised question-and-answer session July 1, expressed concern over the escalation of the Russian military presence in Egypt and declared that it was in the U.S. interest to see that the balance of power–Israel’s deterrent strength–is maintained in order to avoid a new war. Mr. Eban said the President’s remarks stemmed at least in part from information the U.S. received from Israel on the deployment of Soviet SAM missiles in the Suez Canal zone. The Foreign Minister said, “In the last few days, authoritative American personalities have stated that the U.S. regards herself obliged to guarantee the security of Israel.” He said that in this view the Americans are coming to realize more and more that what happens in the Middle East has ceased to be a matter concerning only Israel and the Arab states but has become a matter of great-power confrontation resulting from the ceaseless attempts of the Soviet Union to strengthen her position in the region.

(The Israeli Embassy in Washington issued a policy background paper to newsmen today claiming that the Soviet Union was seeking dominance in the Middle East and wanted to dictate a Soviet-style political settlement there. The Embassy said that in pursuit of their aims, the Russians have already entered combat against Israel by firing missiles at Israeli aircraft over the Suez Canal zone, and that Soviet pilots may soon be flying missions over the Suez Canal. According to the Embassy paper, the Russians have been gradually inching their Egyptian missile defense system to within 20 miles of the waterway, into the zone where Israel considers it vital to maintain aerial superiority in the interests of her own security. “The prospect of Soviet pilots entering the canal zone proper and beyond is not to be discounted,” the Embassy said. Concern was expressed in some quarters that the Russians planned eventually to fly combat missions over Israeli-held Egyptian territory, menacing Israel’s own frontiers.) (According to observers in Washington, U.S. officials who were skeptical Monday of Israeli reports that the Russians had introduced SAM-3 missiles within 20 miles of the Suez Canal, now acknowledge their presence. There was said to be considerable sympathy in U.S. government circles for Israel’s position. But there was also an inclination to believe that Israeli authorities were dramatizing the situation in order to press their request for more U.S. Phanlom and Skyhawk jets. The Embassy policy background paper seemed to be part of the Israeli campaign.)

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