During last summer's fighting in Lebanon and over Syria the Israeli Air Force , using American-built and supplied F-15 and F-16 fighter planes, shot down 85 planes built by the Soviets and being flown (presumably) by Syrian pilots.
It also knocked out all Soviet SAMs in Lebanon.
During these encounters the Israelis say they lost none of their own American-built planes.
The results of such an unusual and uneven contest in air war are, understandably, of interest to all air forces the world around.
They are particularly interesting to the United States Air Force and to American aircraft manufacturers.
The Pentagon in Washington would have liked to have access to whatever Soviet weapons were retrieved by the Israelis and to all pertinent information in Israeli possession about the performance or nonperformance of the Soviet aircraft in those contests of last summer.
Considering that the planes used by the Israelis in these encounters were American-built and had been made available to the Israelis either as gifts from the American taxpayer or on long-term, low-interest loans, it would not be unreasonable to think that the US would be entitled to full access to all information about last summer's air fighting involving those planes - and without any conditions.
The New York Times (Feb. 10, page 1, column 5) carried the remarkable news (which we have confirmed) that the above is not the case.
The Israelis offered the information, and the remains of the Soviet planes, for US inspection, but on conditions. The conditions were as follows:
1. Israel would send its own experts along with the captured weapons to the US.
2. Israel would be entitled to any analysis derived from US inspection and analysis.
3. Israel would have a veto over the dissemination of any information derived from the US study. The veto could apply even to NATO allies of the US.
Britain, France, Italy, West Germany, Benelux, Denmark, and Norway are all contractual allies of the US. The US has treaty obligations to them and they to the US. Israel is not an ally of the US. The US has no treaty obligations to Israel. Israel has never accepted treaty obligations to the US, although being the largest recipient of US economic and military aid.
The Israeli conditions would have treated the non-ally, Israel, better than the official allies in NATO.
US Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger is said to have turned down the Israeli conditions partly because they would have ''trapped'' the US into a long-term commitment to Israel and partly because they would have given Israel a veto over US relations with its contractual allies in NATO.
Besides, said some Pentagon officials according to the New York Times, Mr. Weinberger did not consider the information of sufficient value to be worth paying the price Israel was asking.
Neither you nor I can know what the value might be to the US Air Force of the information which might have been obtained from inspection of the captured weapons.
But you and I do know that Israel could not exist without the weapons and the economic aid which the US makes available to Israel. If that aid were to be withdrawn, or even halted for any significant length of time, Israel would be an economic bankrupt and would very soon become vulnerable to the military power of the neighboring Arab countries.
No other country would give economic grants, make loans or make modern weapons available to Israel. The US is Israel's only source for such support.
In normal human relations it would be reasonable to expect a person or country so dependent upon another to be considerate of the interests of its only source of support.
The present government of Israel is openly contemptuous of the wishes of the President and government of the US. It is pursuing policies of expansion and aggression contrary to the expressed wishes and the obvious interests of the US. The attempt to exact a price from the results of last summer's air fighting with the Syrians is not new in kind. It is just another example of Prime Minister Menachem Begin's lack of consideration for the country without whose support his own would disappear from the face of the earth.