TEL AVIV (Dec. 21)
Defense Minister Shimon Peres has returned from the U.S. confident that the delivery of arms to Israel will be speeded up and that a relationship based on mutual confidence has been established with the Pentagon. Peres, who arrived home from Washington Friday, told newsmen he was particularly impressed with America’s new Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld who, despite his short time in office, revealed a broad and deep knowledge of Israel’s security situation and defense needs.
Peres’ mission to the U.S. was to try to break the logjam that has been holding up the delivery of certain weapons already contracted for by Israel and to apprise the Ford Administration of Israel’s future military needs. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s subcommittee on assistance approved the Administration’s $4.7 billion foreign aid bill. Friday which includes over $2 billion in military grants and credits for Israel. (See separate story.)
While in the U.S., Peres told newsmen that Israel was not receiving “100 percent” of the arms promised it but declined to say whether the delay was due to bureaucratic red tape or a political decision by the Administration. On his return to Israel, however, he indicated that the arms acquisition process will be shortened and the supply of essential combat items would be expedited. He said his three-hour talk with Rumsfeld took place in the presence of Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Joseph J. Sisco and that the full gamut of Middle Eastern affairs was discussed.
Peres said the warned the U.S. officials of the dangerous situation in Lebanon which, he said, should be considered by those who advocate Israeli negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization. He said they also spoke of widening rifts in the Middle East between the southern, coalition of Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia and the northern coalition of Syria, Iraq and Jordan.
HAWKEYES, F-15S DISCUSSED
Peres said the supply of U.S. Hawkeye radar planes and F-15 fighters to Israel was discussed and disclosed that the possibility also arose of shipping the components of the new F-16 fighter to Israel for assembly there. That aircraft will not be available before 1980. Peres said assembly in Israel was not intended to compete with American industry but to shorten time and save lives thereby.
He reiterated his statement made in the U.S. last week that 10 Arab states have contracted for $19 billion worth of armaments over the past two years including a huge inflow from the Soviet Union. He said Syria was the major recipient of Soviet aircraft. He put the number of MIG-23s in Syrian hands at 150 and said some advanced MIG-25s are also there, flows by Russian pilots, But the day is not far when Syrian pilots will man the new MIGs, Peres said.
He stressed that Syria has gotten hundreds of T-62 tanks from the Soviet Union while Israel is still using the old American Sherman tanks. The Syrians have also received many ground-to-ground and ground-to-air missiles from the USSR and other Arab countries are also receiving huge quantities of arms, Peres said. He stressed that Israel is still in the process of replacing its obsolete war materiel.