U.S. Denies Political Pressure is Reason for Delay in Selling El Al Two Boeing 747s

Continuing “consideration” by the U.S. government whether to allow Israel to buy two Boeing 747 jumbo jet passenger planes for its El Al Airline from U.S. aid funds brought the specter of political pressure again into Israeli-American relations. The State Department however denied the delay is politically motivated.

Israeli newspapers and the Israeli State Radio said officials who visited Washington before the May 17 Knesset elections were led to believe their request would be approved within a few days but since the election brought the Likud Party and Menachem Begin into power the decision has been postponed. Israelis claim the State Department and American Airlines oppose the purchase.

At the State Department, spokesman John Trattner said last week that senior Israeli officials on a visit to Washington in April did ask to use $90 million of its allocation of $735 million in the U.S. fiscal 1977 economic supporting assistance program to buy the two aircraft. While the “sale is still being considered” Trattner said, use of aid money for acquiring commercial aircraft “is not part of the traditional aid program.” The aid officials, he claimed, had told the Israelis that it was “unlikely” the request would be approved.

Trattner also said that another reason for the continuing consideration is that the “question involves the possible contravention of informal international agreements on export credit competition in commercial aircraft.” He did not name the parties to this agreement. The spokesman said the way for foreign governments to buy U.S. commercial aircraft was through the U.S. Export-import Bank.

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