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U.S. Still Undecided on Jet Sales to Israel

The United States so far has not approved Israel’s application to purchase 40-odd F-4 Phantom jets. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said today that “the subject is still being discussed by the two governments but no decision has been taken as yet.” No new aircraft supply contracts have been concluded with Washington since the end of last year and the last of the planes under the old contracts have been delivered. Israel is seeking more Phantoms to replace the French-built Mirage jets that were the backbone of its Air Force in the June, 1967 war but which are becoming obsolete. France still maintains its 1967 embargo on aircraft and arms sales to Israel and is still holding 50 Mirages bought and paid for by Israel nearly three years ago. Concern has been voiced in some quarters here that the U.S. may try to take advantage of its position as Israel’s only supplier of combat aircraft to exert political pressure to soften Israel’s stand on withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories.

In Tel Aviv today, an American Jewish leader assured an Israeli audience that “Israel will got all the arms supplies it is asking for, just as in the past.” The speaker, Dr. William Wexler, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, addressed the Israeli B’nai B’rith Council and spoke of President Nixon’s “warm friendship” for Israel. Wexler, who is international president of B’nai B’rith, claimed that of all American presidents, except for Harry Truman who recognized the Jewish State in 1946, Nixon is the closest to Israel.

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