Title: Policy background.
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Title: Policy background.
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Bibliographic ID: UF00072554
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Source Institution: The Isser and Rae Price Library of Judaica
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POL IC Y BAC KGR FOUND


THE U.S. RESPONSE

TO ISRAEL'S AIRCRAFT NEEDS -

AN ASSESSMENT

























EMBASSY OF ISRAEL

Washington, D.C.

March 26, 1970








THE U.S. RESPONSE TO ISRAEL'S AIRCRAFT NEEDS AN ASSESSMENT


1. The decision of the U.S. Government to hold in abeyance Israel's
request to purchase a supply of jet aircraft gives rise to four funda-
mental questions:
a) What are the possible effects of the U.S. decision on Israel's
security?
b) What impact is the decision likely to have on Arab military
and political thinking, both short-term and long-term?
c) What lessons might the Russians draw from the U.S. decision?
d) Uhat impact may the U.S. decision have on the prospects of peace?

2. Israel's Security The Salance of Power

The U.S. decision is based on the premise that Israel's air
capacity is sufficient to eest its needs for the time being. Israel
contests this assessment. It has evidence of a growing shift in the
Arab favor. Israel's original order for additional aircraft was placed
in September 1969, for delivery in 1971 and 1972. The size of that
order reflected a projection of the military balance as it appeared in
September 1969. Since then, the Soviets have accelerated the shipments
of planes and other sophisticated weapons to the Arabs, culminating in
he i'a ; 7riitrg into, Egypt o SA-3 mis.,l Jhes nug me al .diparity
between Israel's air strength as compared with that of the Arabs is
growing. And while the Arab countries can count on an unlimited supply
of war materials of all kinds, Israel is found to be even more
restricted..than ever before in its ability to procure essential
supplies of planes. Inevitably, this cannot but have an adverse effect
upon the credibility of Israel's potential defensive capacity in the
\eyes of the Arabs and the Soviets.
S In the given Middle East situation, the credibility of Israel's
deterrent strength is the only effective guarantee against the outbreak
of 'ull-ecale hostilities. The Israel airforce is a most. vital element
of that posture. Grossly outnumbered in men and weapons, Israel has to
rely, in the first instance, upon the skill and effectiveness of its
airforce. to compensate for its deficiencies in other areas of defense.
In very large measure, it is the airforce that is the key to the
maintenance of the balance of power.
The term 'balance of power' is not a scientific concept given to
precise measurement. It can at best be estimated and is always subject
to error. In. Israel's case, an error could have disastrous conse-
quences, not only with respect to its immediate security, but in terms
of its very national survival. Israel's request to.purchase a speci-
fied number of planes was not arbitrary. It was based upon sober
intelligence evaluations that reveal a steadily deteriorating ratio in
numerical bddds.









POLICY BACKGROUND


3. The Arab Response

The U.S. decision must undoubtedly leave its mark on Arab military
planning, short-term and long-term. It might serve to encourage an
escalation of the Egyptian war of attrition, the Soviet and Arab calcu-
lation being that Israel will be inhibited in the deployment of its air-
force for fear of sustaining losses it will be unable to replace. The
fact that the United States response to Israel's aircraft request has
come at the very time when Egypt is being equipped by the Soviets with
the SA-3 missiles (accompanied by a substantial number of Soviet person-
nel to operate the system) will surely serve to strengthen this projec-
tion. The missiles constitute for the Egyptians the long-sought
umbrella for the intensification of their war of attrition, unhampered
by the measured Israeli air responses that have successfully countered
the attrition effort in the past. Seen in this light, the SA-3's
emerge not as a defensive but as an offensive device, operating in
support of an offensive strategy.
Their introduction raises the prospect of the renewal of the
massive Egyptian artillery barrages along the length of the Suez Canal,
backed by Egypt's substantial artillery and manpower advantage which
Israel cannot match. It was because of this Egyptian advantage that
Israel was compelled to take to the air, its aircraft serving along the
Canal as flying artillery. With the presence of the missiles, Israel
has no choice but to face the prospect of increased air losses at the
very time when its request for more aircraft is being held up. This is
a new situation and one that represents a material shift in the balance
of power.


S4. The Soviet Response

Certainly, the U.S. decision is rendered particularly grave when
measured against the Russian actions to increase the Arab military
potential, backed by an increased Soviet military presence in Egypt.
The absence of a positive U.S. response to Israel's request for air-
craft at this time is liable to be interpreted by the Soviet Union as
an assurance that its continued military and political support for the
Egyptian attrition strategy may go forward and be further intensified
without hindrance.


5. The Prospects of Peace and the Dangers of War

Politically, the United States move must serve to encourage
those forces in the Arab world bent on launching war in an effort to
vanquish Israel. The first prerequisite for peace in the Middle East
is the need to eliminate once and for all from Arab thinking the option


MARCH 26, 1970


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POLICY BACKGROUND


of war and the notion that Israel can be destroyed. Herein lie the
seeds of realism and the promise of peace. So long as Arab Govern-
ments believe they have a chance to trounce Israel in battle there
will be no peace in the Middle East. The war of 1967 broke out
because of the mistaken Arab and Soviet belief that Israel could be
militarily overwhelmed. The only reason why renewed full-scale war
has not erupted since 1967 is because the Soviets and the Egyptians
have concluded that their chances of waging a successful battle are
in doubt. This doubt has been planted, in the first instance, by
Israel's air force. Were the Arabs and the Soviets to conclude that
Israel's capacity for long-term defensive planning is now to be
subjected to the limitations of restrictive aircraft supply, the
prospects of all-out war will automatically increase. One cannot
dismiss in this context the psychological impact of the U.S. decision
upon the Arab leadership at the sight of what they might interpret as
the sealing off, or at least the reduction, of Israel's last source
of supply of crucial military equipment.


6. In making these observations, Israel is by no means unmindful
of the U.S. declarations of readiness to assist it in meeting some of
its current economic burdens through the extension of credits. This
is deeply appreciated as are the expressions of friendship contained
in the recent statements of both the President and the Secretary of
State. It is in the spirit of this amity that Israel's Foreign
Minister, Mr. Eban, was able to declare on March 23:


"The friendship between Israel and the United States
has deep roots in the consciousness of both nations.
This came to cogent expression during the meetings
between President Nixon and Prime Minister Golda Meir
last September, and in many subsequent contacts and
discussions.
We believe that Israel and the United States have many
common values and a long record of friendship.
The Government of Israel expects the close watch on
the balance of arms indicated by the U.S. President to
result soon in practical steps to prevent the increase
of the dangerous imbalance and to supply Israel uith
the aircraft so necessary and vital for her security."


*414


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MARCH 26, 1970




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