Israel is to send a high-level military delegation soon to discuss storing U.S. weaponry in that country for use in an emergency in the Middle East and Persian Gulf, U.S. officials said yesterday.
Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) said yesterday that the team is to arrive in about 10 days to discuss stockpiling American aircraft in Israel. Other sources said the more likely arrival time is early next month.
The purpose of the visit is to begin implementing the strategic blueprint for the Middle East that President Reagan and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin roughed out last month.
Warner, on Cable News Network's "Newsmaker" program, said Israel will propose storing American planes on its soil in partly disassembled condition to allay any fears that the planes were about to be used. In a period of tension, these planes would be put in flying condition, presumably by Israeli ground crews.
Pentagon officials confirmed that such ideas are being considered, but stressed that no firm decisions have been made. Israeli military officials have been more enthusiastic than their U.S. counterparts about storing U.S. weapons in Israel.
Israel has talked about warplanes and tanks, while the Reagan administration has mentioned medical supplies.
U.S. military officials fear that in an emergency, neighboring Arab countries would not allow U.S. planes to fly over their territory after leaving Israel, even if the operation was to help an Arab government.
A U.S. political reservation is that stockpiling tons of weapons in Israel would harden the feeling in many Arab capitals that the administration is tilting sharply toward Israel.
Nevertheless, Washington and Tel Aviv are committed to showing the world that the strategic blueprint for the Middle East agreed upon during Begin's visit is being carried out.
"We do want to flesh it out," one Pentagon official said yesterday, "but we're still discussing what to discuss."
A small Pentagon team has visited Israel to discuss prepositioning of weaponry and military equipment, but no commitments were made, officials said.
Expected on the forthcoming return visit are the heads of the Israeli air force and navy and a high-level strategic specialist.
During Begin's visit, administration officials said Israeli specialists discussed with Central Intelligence Agency officials the possibility of receiving information on its neighbors directly from U.S. spy satellites. Presumably, pictures and data would have been beamed to a ground station in Israel under this proposal.
During the discussions with Begin, U.S. government sources said, the Israelis stunned some of their hosts by asking about the possibility of the United States launching a satellite strictly for Israeli use. U.S. officials said emphatically that neither a satellite ground station nor an Israeli satellite was promised.