JERUSALEM (Jun. 26)
A report that President Carter has approved selling to Israel $115 million in new arms was welcomed by Premier Menachem Begin today. “I would like to thank President Carter for his decision,” Begin said as he emerged from the first regular meeting of his Cabinet. “Of course the citizens of Israel appreciate it and we hope it is a sign of real friendship between the United States and Israel.”
Carter’s decision was revealed in a story in The New York Times today and reported widely in Israeli newspapers. According to the Times story from Washington, Administration “sources” said that Carter will propose that Israel be sold 200 wire-guided antitank missiles, 700 M-13 armored personnel carriers and 15 M-728 tank bulldozers.
These weapons had been requested by former Defense Minister Shimon Peres but a decision had been held up. The Times said the Administration sources denied that the sale was an attempt to appease supporters of Israel and stressed that it was a “logical extension” of Vice President Walter Mondale’s speech in San Francisco, June 17 in which he said the Administration would not “use our military aid as pressure on Israel.”
NOT CONFIRMED BY WHITE HOUSE
(In Washington, The New York Times story was not confirmed by the White House today. Observers noted it came two days after the White House acknowledged it had blocked a proposal for an American-Israeli co-production of a military communications system and before the start tomorrow of a debate in the Senate in which supporters of Israel will urge the Carter Administration not to further its blueprint for a Middle East settlement.
(The sale is seen here as a carrot that followed a stick as well as a debating point to offset fears that the Carter Administration is relaxing its special relationship with Israel. One Congressional source termed the $115 million sale as a “sop” to critics both in this country and Israel and as “window dressing” in advance of Begin’s visit to Washington. Another source noted that the equipment involved is relatively insignificant.)
U.S. DECISION HAILED
Begin’s comments today came after he was asked if he was concerned about a possible reduction of U.S. arms to Israel. “Why should I be concerned?” he replied. “Just now President Carter decided to deliver us weapons to defend our country.”
The afternoon daily Yediot Aharonot said in an editorial today that Carter’s decision came after the Administration realized its reaction to the Likud victory could both strengthen Soviet influence in the Middle East and upset American Jews.
“Washington seems to have calmed down after the initial nervousness caused by the shock of Israel’s general election results,” Yediot said. The newspaper also noted that This should be a lesson for Israel. (Former Premier). Yitzhak Robin came bock from Washington (earlier this year) empty-handed. But Mr. Begin, even before his visit to Washington (July 19-20), has been assured of the necessary arms supplies.”
(Meanwhile, Carter told a group of newspaper editors at a meeting in Washington yesterday that he is spending a lot of his time preparing for the Begin meeting. “Our hope is that we can have an overall settlement by the participants in the Middle East discussions without delay, hopefully this year,” he said. “Once that settlement is reached, then step-by-step implementation of the ultimate settlement is the best way to go about it.”)