WASHINGTON (Aug. 31)
Sen. Frank Church (D. Idaho) said today that Israeli military officers do not regard American naval bases in Greece “as vital to the security of Israel so long as the Sixth Fleet remains in the Mediterranean.” Church, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made that disclosure on his return from a five-day visit to Israel.
He said that Israel was “fully aware” that both President Nixon and his Democratic challenger, Sen. George McGovern “have pledged to keep the Sixth Fleet there” (in the Mediterranean).
The juxtaposition of Israel’s security with US naval bases in Greece was injected into the Presidential campaign last month when Nixon stated at a press conference that without US aid to the regimes of Greece and Turkey “you have no viable policy to save Israel.” The President made the remark in the context of plans to use Greece as the home port for destroyers of the US Sixth Fleet.
But Greece’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Christian Xanthopolous-Palamas, promptly rejected any implication that Greece would serve as a base for military aid to Israel. “Greece’s friendly relations with the Arab world rule out any direct or indirect participation in any acts aimed at our Arab friends,” he said.
McGovern contended last week that the planned US destroyer base in Greece was “Jeopardizing our commitment to Israel” because of the Athens regime’s friendship with Arab nations. Church said today that in his discussions with the Israeli military leaders “no anxiety was expressed over the retention” of American bases in Greece.” He did not name the officers he spoke to.