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JFK & Israel's Nuclear Program:
Harman Reviews Issues Relating to Nuclear Weapons & the Johnston Plan

(February 24, 1961)


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This memorandum deals with the U.S.'s discussion of the Middle East's security capabilities, and future Israeli and Arab expansion.

SUBJECT

Ambassador Harman's Call on February 16

I enclose for your approval prior to distribution, a memorandum reporting the conversation between you and Israel Ambassador Avraham Harman at your office on February 16./2/

In accordance with the interest which you expressed following the meeting, there follows Department comment pertinent to some of the points raised by Ambassador Harman:

1. Ambassador Harman suggested that the Soviet MIG-19, which he believes the UAR is now receiving, is greatly superior to the best fighter plane the Israelis now have, the French "Super-Mystere".

(It is the Department's understanding that the "Super-Mystere" is virtually on a par with the MIG-19, although the latter may have points of superiority under some circumstances. According to the Department's information, the French "Mirage", which the French have agreed to supply to the Israelis, is much superior to the MIG-19. A performance table for the three aircraft, MIG-19, "Super-Mystere", and "Mirage", is enclosed for your information.)/3/

2. Ambassador Harman stated that the United States Government declined to furnish a ground-to-air missile, the "Hawk", but assured the Israelis that the decision could be reconsidered if new factors emerged.

(The United States declined because of its reluctance to have a weapon of this sophistication introduced into the Middle East, inevitably producing a dangerous new element in the never-ending pursuit of better arms. United States "willingness" to reconsider was expressed by heavily pressed United States officials, who stressed that the inference was not to be drawn that reconsideration would change the United States position. A copy of the paper on which the decision to decline to furnish the "Hawk" was based is enclosed for your information./4/ The Department regards these judgments as still valid.)

3. The Israel Ambassador said the United States, although unable to finance Israel's arms procurement, would take it into account in considering Israel's applications in the several categories of aid.

(The Department's position has consistently been that Israel's applications for aid and loans must be justified on economic grounds. We have carefully refrained from affirming the Israelis' proposition that an expanded Israel military burden will produce an expanded program of United States aid and loans to Israel. It has been stressed that a country's security expenditures are only one facet of many studied in determining its eligibility for assistance.)

4. Ambassador Harman expressed unhappiness with the manner in which Israel's nuclear development came to the public's attention.

(A project of such significance was bound to become public knowledge sooner or later. It had already been under way for perhaps two years. Our Government endeavored to keep the matter secret while waiting for Israel's official explanation, but was forced to comment when the story "broke" in rather sensational terms in the British press. There is considerable justification for the Israel contention that they were compelled to maintain tight security for fear of Arab harassment of the project. A number of Congressional leaders remain unhappy that the Israelis kept a development of this importance secret from the United States in a period when they were operating on a basis of special confidence to press highly sensitive requests for arms and economic assistance.)

5. The Israel Minister, Mordechai Gazit, suggested that in its essentials the Johnston Plan for the Jordan Valley could be reduced to allotting the Jordan River to Israel and its tributary, the Yarmuk, to the Kingdom of Jordan.

(According to the Johnston Plan, Israel would be obliged to deliver to the Kingdom of Jordan 100 million cubic meters of Jordan River water, about 15-20% of the utilizable total flow of the Jordan River. Furthermore, the Kingdom of Jordan would realize its full expectations from the Yarmuk only if some of that tributary's spring flood waters were trapped and stored in Lake Tiberias, which is completely under Israel's control. It was because of such obligations between the riparians that the Johnston Plan provided for an international water master. While the Kingdom of Jordan might realize up to 85% of its needs from the Yarmuk, providing a storage dam were built at Maqarin upstream, Jordan's fair share, as calculated under the Johnston Plan, can be fully realized only by physical concessions from Israel.)

Walter J. Stoessel, Jr./5/

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 784A.5-MSP/2-2461. Secret. Drafted by Hamilton and cleared by Strong and Meyer.

/2/Document 12. A copy of the memorandum of conversation is attached to the source text.

/3/Not printed; the other attachments are filed with the original of this memorandum in the Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Country Series, Israel, 2/61.

/4/The document, entitled "Considerations Bearing on Israel's Request for Hawk Missiles," is the same as the body of a memorandum from Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs Jones to Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Merchant, dated July 7, 1960; see Foreign Relations, 1958-1960, vol. XIII, pp. 344-349.

/5/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature above which are unidentified handwritten initials.


Sources: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963: Near East, 1962-1963, V. XVIII.

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