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Harriman Proposes U.S. Initiate ‘carefully Limited’ Lend-lease Program for Israel

W. Averill Harriman, the former ambassador to the Soviet Union and to Britain and most recently chief American negotiator at the Paris peace talks, proposed today that the United States initiate a “carefully limited” lend-lease program for Israel. In an essay in today’s New York Times, the 79-year-old diplomat wrote that the great advantage of lend-lease is that under it “the Arab nations could be assured that after peace had been achieved, major items of sophisticated military equipment would not be kept by Israel but would be returned to the United States.” He recalled that “In December 1940 President Roosevelt made a brilliant proposal ‘to get away from the dollar sign’ while providing arms to nations whose survival we wanted to support.” Roosevelt did that through “the loaning of military equipment on the basis that when it was no longer needed the unexpended part would be returned to the United States.” Mr. Harriman wrote. The former Governor of New York State and Presidential Cabinet member, continued: “We must recognize that many Arabs have a real, although unrealistic, fear, based in part on misinformation on what brought on the June 1967 war, that Israel is an imperialistic state bent on expanding her position. The knowledge that in the event of peace Israel would relinquish much of its sophisticated armament could serve as an incentive for the Arab states to negotiate.”

Ambassador Harriman noted that “Equipment supplied under lend-lease should be carefully limited, as Israel, like her neighbors, must be encouraged to accept the fact that security lies not in strength of military forces but in a genuine peace settlement.” Mr. Harriman contended that “President Nixon’s request to the Congress for $500 million for arms to Israel makes urgent the immediate reconsideration of how we should aid Israel in her struggle for survival.” He observed that “the flow of Soviet weapons” to Egypt since the Six-Day War “has required an economically costly and increasingly burdensome Israeli response.” While Israel has “the determination and ability” to defend herself without outside troops, “it is clearly essential to insure that Israel has sufficient weapons to defend herself,” the diplomat stated. “But,” he added, “it is also vital that Israel not be compelled to spend herself into bankruptcy or to undermine the fabric of her society.” A possible alternative to lend-lease that Gov. Harriman rejected is “to make military equipment available to Israel on a grant (free) basis.” Although “Israel is virtually unique in having had to contract to pay for all arms she received from the United States.” he wrote, to give that country free arms “at this late date…would be seen by the Arabs as a provocative act and might impede our effort to bring about peace.”

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