WASHINGTON (Oct. 13)
State Department and Pentagon elements bent on justifying the continued sales of American arms to Saudi Arabia and Jordan are believed to be behind the attacks on President Ford for his latest decision to supply new military equipment to Israel.
These same elements are also believed to be deliberately leaking lists of weapons supposedly approved for sale to Israel. Their implication is that if Israel can receive new advanced weapons systems, Congress should not oppose similar sales to the two Arab countries.
The attacks on Ford were attributed to unnamed sources within the U.S. government. A report in the Washington Post today under a six-column front page headline. “Israel to Get New U.S. Bombs, Scanning Device,” said “a governmental source” called the President’s pledge to Israel “a clear cut case of sacrificing the national security interest for flagrant political reasons.” According to “informed sources,” the report said “The decision was made Friday in the White House without the usual discussion and examination within the executive branch.” Allegations were also made that the latest sale of weapons would upset the Middle East military balance.
The sales, according to these elements, total about $200 million, a small fraction of the more than $6 billion in military contracts that Sen. Clifford Case (R.NJ) said the United States has negotiated with Saudi Arabia this past year. Case, the ranking Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has opposed burgeoning arms deliveries to Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
STATE DEPARTMENT MUM ON EQUIPMENT
According to the reports, the equipment for Israel approved by Ford includes two new weapons systems never before shipped to the Middle East. These reportedly are an infra-red system that can “see” in the dark and “concussion bombs.” Israeli and U.S. sources previously described such reports as “incorrect” and “speculative.” The State Department refused to reveal the items, saying, as it did again today. “We don’t discuss publicly military equipment sales to Israel or any other country.”
Department spokesman Robert Funseth pointed out that the details will come out “in letters of notification of offers sent to the Congress.” He said that these letters are “sent as schedules of delivery are arranged.” Congress, by law, has 30 days in which to approve military sales and with the 94th Congress having adjourned and the new Congress not convening until January, it is understood that the letters will not go to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee until next year.
Funseth said that the element of power balance in the Middle East is “a factor taken into consideration in all these matters.” He referred to Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger’s statement Monday that “We are not talking of new types of missiles” and that the matter “was handled as a routine decision in an ongoing relationship in which, inevitably, new weapons get approved from time to time.”
Funseth also quoted Kissinger’s statement that “the fact the U.S. government made no announcement of it, and that we notified the Israeli government in a normal course of studying it” indicated that “it was known months ago” that the decision would come up “at just about this time.”