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Influential Congressional Group Hits Proposed Sale of Planes to Saudis

The Coalition for a Democratic Majority released a statement today denouncing the Carter Administration’s proposed sale of F-15 Jets to Saudi Arabia as evidence of “accommodation and retreat” in face of “open threats to U.S. energy and monetary interests.”

The group, of which Sens. Henry M. Jackson of Washington and Daniel P. Moynihan of New York are honorary co-chairmen, claimed that the supply of the advanced aircraft to Saudi Arabia would place that country in the ranks of the confrontation states and possibly prompt a preventive strike by Israel because of the dire threat to its security represented by F-15s in Arab hands.

Similar arguments against the aircraft sales were offered in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last Friday by Morris J. Amitay who appeared on behalf of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee of which he is chairman, and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Amitay charged that the Administration’s proposal “constitutes more of a political payoff than a reasoned military judgement.”

CONSEQUENCES OF SALE CITED

The three-page statement by the Coalition for a Democratic Majority rejected the Administration’s contention that the Saudis needed the F-15s for their own defense and would not deploy them against Israel. It warned that the balance of power in the Middle East would be altered to Israel’s detriment and that current peace efforts would be compromised by the aircraft deal.

“The sale will institutionalize the Israeli-Saudi conflict by making a de facto ‘front line’ state,” it said. “If the Saudis have the F-15, there will be great pressure on Saudi Arabia in the event of another war, to employ the one weapon which alone could challenge Israeli air supremacy and which they, alone of all the Arabs, would possess. It is hard to imagine that Saudi Arabia would stand aside and allow the Arabs to suffer another defeat without employing this potentially critical asset,” the statement said.

“A corollary,” it continued, “is that should another war seem likely, it would be difficult for Israel to wait to see what Saudi Arabia would decide to do with its planes. Prudent defense planning would impel Israel to attack Saudi airfields preemptively in such a situation.”

The statement found “the timing of the sale” to be “an enormous impediment to the current effort to achieve a peace settlement between Egypt and Israel.” It also accused the Carter Administration of exerting “enormous leverage over Israel” while “little pressure has been brought on the Arabs who must make concessions beyond the elementary step of acknowledging that Israel has a right to exist if the negotiations are to succeed.”

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