WASHINGTON (May. 10)
Former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, appearing before the House International Relations Committee this morning, affirmed that he favored each part of the Administration’s proposed sale of advanced jet aircraft to Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia on its merits and repeated his recommendation that the 15 F-15 fighters earmarked for Israel be increased by 20. The current Administration proposal is for 15 F-15s to Israel and 60 to Saudi Arabia, 75 F-16s to Israel and 50 F-5Es to Egypt.
Kissinger presented basically the same views to the House panel today as he did Monday in his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Both in his prepared statement and in reply to questions by committee members, he stressed the need for assurances to Israel that the sale of planes to Saudi Arabia will not jeopardize its security and assurances from Saudi Arabia as to the deployment, use and non-transfer of the aircraft. Kissinger expressed hope that the Administration will work out a solution so that the matter does not become the subject of a devisive debate in Congress.
Meanwhile, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, reported to be closely divided on the issue, prepared to vote tomorrow on the Administration’s proposal. Its House counterpart will vote early next week.
ISSUES FOR ISRAEL, SAUDI ARABIA
Kissinger told the House body that in its military planning, Israel must be prepared for the “worst contingency” and that “Israel can be assured by the addition of 20 F-15s” to its part of the package. He said that from Saudi Arabia “we can get assurances as to the deployment of the planes so that they are merely used against the threats against Saudi Arabia.”
He said that “equipment limitations can direct them to…defensive missions.” He said the U.S. could also get assurances against transfer of the F-15s to other countries in the region and assurances that they are not part “of a total package of advanced aircraft but that they may be the only aircraft Saudi Arabia can be supplied.” He was apparently referring to the possibility that Saudi Arabia might purchase advanced French Mirage jets in addition to the F-15s.
“I think these (assurances) can all be positive contributions, “Kissinger said. With respect to timing the deliveries, he said, “It would seem the easiest solution to do it in the same time frame so that any concerns that might exist about the planes might be reduced.”
Questioned about the commitments made to Israel during his term as Secretary of State, Kissinger said that at the time of the Sinai II interim agreements in September, 1975 “there had been a memorandum” on the sale of planes. “There was no specific reference as to the numbers or timing,” he said, “but the Israeli request then was for 150 F-16s. The biggest hang-up at the time was the request (by Israel) for co-production” rights, he said.