More Phantoms No. 1 Topic on Agenda of Sisco Talks

The further supply of F-4 Phantom jets to the Israeli Air Force and the extent of America’s commitment to Israel in face of growing Soviet involvement in the Middle East are expected to be the principal subjects Israel will raise with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Joseph J. Sisco, informed sources said today. Sisco arrived from Washington last night and is expected to remain in Israel for 7-10 days, Sisco himself is expected to raise the question of an interim agreement between Israel and Egypt to reopen the Suez Canal. According to some sources here, there has been a “slight shift” of position on the terms of an interim agreement. The United States continues to suppose the idea of Egyptian troops re-occupying areas evacuated in an Israeli pull-back but appears to support a “token movement” of Egyptian units across the canal. Israel, which last spring seriously considered such an arrangement, now insists on an unqualified undertaking by the Egyptians not to send any troops across the canal, the sources said.

Israel is especially anxious to replenish its supply of Phantoma, fearing the progressive obsolescence of its Air Force, which is still made up in large measure of pre-1967 French Mirage jets, and also the increasing quantitative superiority of combat aircraft for Egypt. Sources here said that in recent conversations between Israeli and American diplomats in Washington, the American indicated no change in their policy of maintaining the arms balance in the Middle East. But in their view, this did not require any immediate aircraft deliveries to Israel. They indicated that Israel should content itself with the present situation and a general promise of future aircraft supplies when needed.

Premier Golda Meir who answered questions in the Knesset yesterday before Sisco’s arrival said “Our friendship with the U.S. is very important to us but for this friendship we are not ready to give up anything of importance to our existence and security.” She said the sole criteria for accepting or rejecting any new proposals Sisco may bring would be whether or not it weakened Israel’s defenses. She said the American diplomat would be a “welcome guest” and that the government is interested in hearing what he has to say.

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