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Gerald Ford Administration: News Conference on U.S. Relations with Israel

(October 20, 1976)


Q. Mr. President, Barry Goldwater has said that he agrees with General Brown in the sense that Israel is a military burden of the United States and that we may deplete our own armories to supply Israel and that we may give Israel too many arms, too much arms. Is Israel a burden in your opinion, and will we deplete our own arms in giving Israel arms?

THE PRESIDENT. That is a very good question, and I would like to expand a bit in my response, if I might. The United States is dedicated to the security and survival of Israel. The 3 million Israelis--they're a democratic state in an area where democracy doesn't flourish. We have many, many good, firm, fine ties with the people and with the Government of Israel. I want that to be understood very clearly.

Now, you have to look at the broad picture when you look at the States and Israel's military circumstances. At the time of the Yom Kippur war, the United States came immediately to the aid of Israel with substantial military hardware, military equipment. We drew down from our reserves in Western Europe, in the NATO forces, U.S. hardware that was sent to .Israel. Now, that was not an irreparable situation in NATO because in the interim, from 1973, we have virtually made up that drawdown. But for a period of time, one could say that the immediate needs of Israel in a crisis were a burden to the United States.

On the other hand, since I have been President--August 9, 1974, to the present time--in order to make Israel strong militarily, the Ford administration has either granted or sold about $2 1/2 billion worth of military equipment to the State of Israel. And the net result is, today Israel is stronger militarily than it was prior to the Yom Kippur war because of the support of the Ford administration. So today Israel is not a burden militarily to the United States because of the forthright action of the Ford administration.

So, you have to take the comments that have been made in the proper context. Israel is a strong ally who doesn't want U.S. troops to be participants in any future military engagement there, because Israel is strong and the Ford administration has contributed significantly to making them strong. But in the 1973 Yom Kippur war, some emergency actions had to be taken, Now we have overcome it. Israel is strong; they are a good ally, and we are dedicated to their security and survival.

Sources: Public Papers of the President