WASHINGTON (Apr. 26)
Rep. John J. Rhodes of Arizona, the House Minority leader, appealed to President Carter, in a hand-delivered letter to the White House, to drop the Administration plan for a package sale of warplanes to Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and to sell Israel the number of warplanes it had requested.
Rhodes expressed his opposition, in his letter Monday and released today in its entirety to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, to the proposed sale to Israel, in the package, of 15 F-15s and 75 F-16s, instead of the 25 F-15s and 150 F-16s Israel had requested. He termed the proposed sale to Israel as “totally inadequate” to its defense needs. Saudi Arabia would receive 60 F-15s, considered the world’s most advanced interceptor jet, and Egypt would receive 50 less sophisticated F-5Es.
In urging the President to drop the package proposal, Rhodes indicated he expected Congress to act individually on each of the proposed sales. Carter, at a press conference yesterday, rejected all requests for either withdrawal of the package or for any substantial delay in submitted it to Congress.
A spokesman for the House Minority leader’s office told the JTA that Rhodes had not responded to the President’s rejection, which the spokesman pointed out was not a specific reply to the Rhodes letter and that Rhodes was standing pat on his request.
CITES DANGER OF PACKAGE PROPOSAL
In urging the President to meet Israel’s request, Rhodes wrote that he believed that the proposed sale to Israel, in the package arrangement was “totally inadequate to meet her defense needs” and that this would be the case particularly “if Congress were to approve the sale of arms to other countries in the Middle East.”
Rhodes also contended that the “package” approach “contravenes the intent of Congress when it passed the 1976 amendments to the Arms Control Act” to “bring Congress into the decision-making process as to major arms sales.” Describing the Administration proposal as constituting “unsanctioned constraints on Congressional participation in this decision,” Rhodes urged Carter to “regard each of these sales individually and on the merits, as is the intent of the law.”
Rhodes also implied that the package proposal violated a United States commitment to Israel made in connection with the second Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai.
Declaring that each of the proposed sales “has an individual negotiating history and purpose, “Rhodes declared that in Israel’s case, “the signature of American officials in connection with the agreements for Israel’s withdrawal from the Sinai creates the basis for positive consideration of the letter of intent.”
SPIRIT OF SINAI AGREEMENT
Rhodes, referring to the Sinai accord, said conformity with Israel’s request “is directly linked to the spirit of the agreement signed between the government of Israel and the government of the United States in 1975 when the Israelis withdrew from strategic passes in the Sinai desert at the request of the United States.”
Describing Egypt and Saudi Arabia as “valued friends” of the United States, Rhodes said that nevertheless “our decision as to the sale of arms to these governments must be individually weighed and considered with full awareness of the potential impact on the Middle East and the relations between the individual nations and the United States.”
Rhodes warmed that the situation in the Middle East “is of such grave consequences” that “a spirit of confrontation between Congress and the Executive Branch must be avoided.”He expressed the hope that the President, “sharing this view,” would assure Congress that “you will act, as we will, on each of these proposed sales individually and on the merits, as the law provides.”