WASHINGTON (Feb. 28)
The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said today that Premier Golda Meir was “very grateful in her thanks for the aid provided to Israel by the U.S. government and said Israel needed more.” Rep. Thomas E. Morgan (D.Pa.), told reporters, however, that Mrs. Meir did not raise the matter of U.S. aid at her meeting with 28 members of the 39-member House committee which lasted over an hour this morning. This question was raised by the committee. She did not bring it up,” he stated in reply to a reporter’s question.
According to one source here, the main purpose of Mrs. Meir’s visit to Washington is to seek a $565 million U.S. aid package for the coming fiscal year including $300 million worth of military credits for the purchase of the latest model fighter bombers and helicopter gun ships.
A report today had it that President Nixon has deferred a decision on Israel’s request for the $565 million, partly to avoid further inflaming Arab response to the downing of a Libyan air liner over Sinai last week by Israeli fighter pilots flying Phantom jets supplied to Israel by the U.S. The report said Nixon may also be exploiting the aid request in order to elicit some diplomatic compromises from the Israeli Premier. According to the report, the President had been expected to approve the aid during Mrs. Meir’s. visit but administration officials have indicated that it will be left at the negotiating stage for the time being.
State Department sources said, however that there is no basis for such a report. If there is any difficulty in meeting the same or higher level of fiscal assistance to Israel, the sources noted, it is likely to come from Congress in its consideration of budget outlays.
The present U.S. foreign aid program for fiscal 1973, which expires June 30, has ear-marked some $500 million in aid for Israel, including about $300 million in military purchase credits. The aid bill has yet to be passed by Congress but is kept alive by continuing resolutions adopted by Congress. Mrs. Meir is said to be anxious to assure the continued flow of U.S. military hardware after the present aid bill expires.
CHANCES BRIGHT FOR ISRAEL-EGYPT TALKS
Morgan told reporters that Premier Meir “seemed optimistic” over the chances of negotiations between Israel and Egypt “because the shooting on the (Suez) Canal has ceased for 18 months.” He said she thought that the Libyan plane incident would not have an adverse effect on the possibility of negotiations with Egypt. Morgan observed that King Hussein of Jordan, who met with President Nixon here early this month, appeared to be the most friendly of Israel’s neighbors. He said that if a settlement were to be negotiated between Israel and Jordan, “you could look for more progress in that area of the world.”
This afternoon, Mrs. Meir emerged from a three-hour luncheon meeting with Acting Secretary of State Kenneth Rush at the State Department and told reporters that they had “discussed very many problems of mutual interest to both countries.” She said the discussions were held in “the spirit of friendship that exists between the two countries.” She declined to give any details.
Asked by a reporter about reports that she met yesterday with King Hussein of Jordan in Washington, Mrs. Meir drew laughter from the newsmen when she replied. “You already know about it?” (See separate story) The Israeli Premier was meeting with Secretary of Defense Elliot Richardson at the Pentagon late this afternoon, will meet with Nixon at the White House tomorrow morning and then will address the National Press Club.
Mrs. Meir will meet Sunday with 200 Jewish leaders representing the 30 national organizations comprising the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations it was announced in New York today by Jacob Stein, Conference chairman. “This intimate briefing to the leaders of the American Jewish community.” Stein said, “will be Mrs. Meir’s report to the Jewish leadership of her meetings in Washington with President Nixon and other high government officials.”