Israeli Defense Minister Ezer Weizman yesterday gave the Carter administration a list of "high-priority" arms requests -- including expedited delivery of F16 fighter-bombers -- that Israel hopes to obtain as part of its peace settlement with Egypt.
Weizman met with Defense Secretary Harold Brown to discuss President Carter's pledge of additional U.S. security assistance to both Israel and Egypt after their treaty goes into effect. After hearing what Israel wants, Brown remarked to reporters that peace "will not be inexpensive."
The meeting came as a high-level U.S delegation left for Saudi Arabia and Jordan to try and win the support of these key Arab states for the U.S.-mediated Middle East peace effort.
Although Brown did not elaborate, a Pentagon official said the shopping list brought by Weizman includes requests "to be met within a short time" for the F16s, tanks, armored personnel carriers, naval guns and a variety of air-to-air and ground-to-air tactical missiles.
These short-term requests, the official added, are part of a larger, longrange list of defense requirements that Weizman gave to Brown. The official said Weizman described his presentation as a revised version of a 10-year defense plan that Israel revealed to the United States in 1977. In terms of its most immediate goals, Israel appears to be especially interested in getting greatly expedited delivery of the F16s it currently is scheduled to begin receiving in the spring of 1981.
Under the terms of the three-way deal worked out by the administration last year to sell planes to Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Israel is scheduled to get 75 of the sophisticated, long-range F16s. In addition, the administration is known to have promised privately that Israel will be able to get another 75 F16s at a later date.
Yesterday, though, Weizman is understood to have argued for quicker delivery of at least part of the initial 75 planes. There has been speculation that some of the 55 F1ls contracted for by Iran and then canceled by the new government there might be diverted to Israel.
The Air Force's F16 is in the new generation of advanced U.S. jet aircraft. The Air Force itself received the first operational models only in January, at the same time as the four NATO countries that also are buyers. Israel would be the first non-NATO country to receive the plane. Pentagon experts say the aircraft, though cheaper than other advanced fighters, is highly maneuverable and is equal or superior to any Soviet warplane in the Mideast. It can deliver missiles over a range of 500 miles, enough to reach most targets in Syria or Jordan.
Weizman and Brown yesterday also began discussing the thorny issue of U.S. financial aid to cover part of the cost of withdrawing Israeli armed forces from the Sinai Peninsula under the terms of the peace treaty. Some U.S. sources said yesterday that continuing differences over how much the United States will pay remain a major obstacle to putting the treaty agreement in final form.
White House officials have talked of a total payment of between $4 billion and $5 billion for Egypt and Israel combined in order to honor commitments made by Carter during the peace negotiations. However, the sources said, the demands being made by Israel threaten to drive this figure higher than the administration is willing to go.
Weizman said yesterday that Israel estimates the cost of removing two army divisions from the Sinal and relocating two air bases in the Negev at between $3.5 billion and $4 billion. The United States has expressed willingness to spend $1 billion on relocating the air bases but has refused to make additional specific commitments.
U.S. officials, while conceding that Israel will need help with such Sinai costs as relocating housing, roads and water distributon, say Carter, because of his commitment to budgetary austerity, wants to hold the Israeli aid package to a maximum of $2.5 billion.
Weizman's preliminary contacts here, the sources said, indicated that his government might regard this as insufficient. If that Israeli position hardens, the sources added, it could lead to lengthy new delays in getting the peace treaty signed.
On the diplomatic side of the administration's efforts to nurse the still-fragile treaty agreement to completion, attention focused on the delgation that will try to persuade Saudi Arabia and Jordan not to participate in a proposed Arab economic boycott of Egypt.
The key members are Carter's national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Deputy Secretary of State Warren M. Christopher and Air Force Gen. David C. Jones, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. Carter's son, Chip, is accompanying them to symbolize the president's personal concern abou the Middle East situation.
Administration officials said yesterday the delegation will arrive in Saudi Arabia today, got to Jordan on Sunday and then stop in Cairo to brief Egyptian President Anwar Sadat on the reaction of Saudi and Jordanian leaders.
After that, the officials added, most of the delegation will return here. However, Christopher will make quick visits to Bonn, Paris, Rome and Brussels to brief allies.
Administration officials continue to insist that no date has been set for the expected Washington signing of the treaty, although they concede that the hope is for the week beginning March 26.