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Muskie Charges Administration Delaying Military Aid to Israel; Urges Policy Change

Sen. Edmund S. Muskie charged today that the Nixon Administration was delaying “needed military assistance” to Israel in a “zig-zag” Middle East diplomacy of seeking “political leverage over Israel” and said it was “imperative” that the Administration “delay no longer” in selling Israel the additional Phantom jets which Israel has long requested. The Maine Democrat said that the Administration had withheld action on Israel’s request “apparently on the assumption that such actions might render a political settlement more difficult.” Muskie said the United States was “committed to Israel’s survival and we are pledged to maintain a balance of military power in the Middle East. By either measure it is imperative that we delay no longer in shipping the additional aircraft.” He contended that prospects for a political settlement are “surely not advanced by a military balance that shifts dangerously in favor of the Arabs.”

Muskie said the current Administration policy “serves only to raise doubts among all parties in the conflict that the United States is truly committed to preserving Israel’s security. Such doubts will encourage the Arabs not to negotiate seriously with Israel and make Israel more reluctant to negotiate territorial questions bearing on her security.” Muskie cited the current visit of Assistant Secretary of State Joseph Sisco to Israel and declared that the “political stalemate” in the Middle East “has now reached a critical stage, ” and that “frustrations are growing on both sides. In a situation of such great tension there is always the possibility of another tragic conflict,” he declared. Citing reports of increased arms shipments by the Soviets, particularly fighter aircraft to Egypt and Syria, he said he rejected “the Administration’s apparent position that delivery of Phantom jets to Israel must still be delayed.”

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