WASHINGTON (May. 18)
In the opinion of several former American military and diplomatic leaders, the Carter Administration and many Americans in general do not adequately appreciate Israel’s strategic value to the United States and its contributions to American intelligence-gathering agencies.
Those views were expressed here yesterday by former Undersecretary of State Eugene Rostow; former Ambassador William Kintner; Adm. (Ret.) Elmo Zumwalt, former Chief of Naval Operations; and Maj. Gen. George F. Keegan, former Chief of Air Force Intelligence.
They participated in a discussion of current U.S. policy in the Middle East and the Soviet threat to that area at a symposium sponsored by Foreign Policy Perspectives, a Boston-based group that examines U.S. involvement in international affairs.
Two other participants, Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Arthur S. Collins, former deputy commander in chief of the U.S. Army in Europe and Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Benjamin O. Davis, former deputy commander of the U.S. Air Force Strike Command, expressed views in favor of the Administration’s sale of F-15 aircraft to Saudi Arabia, a project roundly condemned by the others.
STRATEGIC ADVANTAGE OF ISRAEL
Kintner, who is director of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Washington, and served as moderator, described Israel as “a strategic asset in a region necessary in defense of NATO” and as “an offset to Soviet military power” there. “Lots of Americans look at it (Israel) as a net strategic loss,” he said. “They are unwilling to recognize the strategic advantage from our association with Israel even though at times it presents challenges and difficulties such as coming to Israel’s support in the Yom Kippur War.”
Zumwalt said the U.S. is incapable of successful military activity in the Middle East without Israel’s support. He pointed out that only the threat of Israeli intervention stopped Syria from attacking Jordan in 1971 when King Hussein was battling Palestinian terrorists.
Keegan said that “If you could put dollar value on Israel’s military intelligence” gained by the U.S. “it would be in the billions of dollars.” He claimed that “five central intelligence agencies could not give us the intelligence information we get from the Israelis.”
Keegan challenged the Pentagon’s description of the F-15 warplane as a “defensive weapon.” He called that description “one of the most misleading” statements the Pentagon has ever mode. He denounced the President’s aircraft package as injudicious because it has the effect of weakening Israel and thereby is detrimental to U.S. interests.
But Davis observed that Saudi Arabia, which will receive 60 F-15s in the package endorsed by the Senate Monday, is “pro-West” and the package, he said, will allow Israel to retain military superiority in the area. Collins said the U.S. could not have supplied Saudi Arabia with aircraft of lesser quality because the Saudis are a “proud people” and would regard such treatment as an “insult.”
Rostow said “no effective” Middle East policy is possible without peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors that ensures Israel’s strength and sovereignty. He contended that “President Carter has taken a position blaming Israel for the absence of peace. This is almost inexplicable. Israel isn’t the obstacle.”