By: The Commentator Editorial Board  | 

Plane Sense (Vol. 35, Issue 12)

As Jews and as Zionists, we are of course distressed at President Nixon’s failure to grant Israel’s request for additional Phantom and Skyhawk jets. If this refusal represents a reduction in the U.S. commitment to Israel and her right to exist, then we condemn without reservation this immoral and possibly tragic betrayal of trust on the part of the present administration.

If, however, the President’s decision is a sincere attempt to bring peace to the Middle East, then its potential effectiveness must be carefully evaluated. The Israeli Defense Ministry claims that the jet planes it requested are necessary to maintain the elusive balance of power between the Arabs and Jews. Yet at the present time it does appear that Israeli air superiority is unquestioned.

The introduction of Soviet SAM-3 missiles into the Mideast conflict could erase that superiority. The Israeli Air Force might also be successful in preventing the missiles’ installation through daily bombardment of the missile sites, or the missiles, as yet untested in combat, may prove as unreliable as their predecessors, the SAM-2.

Prime Minister Golda Meir had asked that the new delivery of planes begin at the end of 1971, when the present shipment of Phantoms is completed. Will those planes still be needed at that time if, as the usually reliable Israeli newspaper Hearetz reports, Israel will be producing her own Mirage jets by 1972?

The most important question of all is how the Arab nations and the Soviet Union will react to the United States action. Will they view it as a sincere attempt to limit the flow of arms to the warring nations, or will they mistake it for a retreat from American support for Israel?

As usual, the tangled web of fantasy and secrecy that shrouds the Middle East prevents a clear understanding of the situation. For us only one thing is definite: Israel's security and integrity must be protected at all costs. If jet planes are necessary to maintain that integrity, then they must be delivered immediately. All other considerations of “American interests” are irrelevant. And if, at this time, the Phantoms are not needed, then the United States must maintain a diligent and constant watch over the situation to make sure that Israel never loses the military superiority required for her survival.