Israel Offered More Skyhawks
(September 27, 1968)
After receiving the Israeli request for Phantom jets, administration officials opposed to the sale looked for ways to delay or prevent the sale. Here the Israelis are offered the less advanced Skyhawks in an effort to placate them in the short run. Notice also the relationship between the decision and the economics of maintaining the production line.
Twelve More Skyhawks for Israel
Secretaries Rusk and Clifford recommend that we accede to an Israeli request for 12 more Skyhawks.
You will recall that our 1966 agreement sold 48 and that you added another 40 after Prime Minister Eshkol's visit last January. Now the Israelis have asked for 12 more, since the production line is going to close down by April 1970 and they would like to have a few extras to cover possible losses over the next few years.
Secretaries Rusk and Clifford recommend you go ahead. The Arab world is still unaware of the total number of Skyhawks going to Israel, and a few more added to the end of the delivery line would make little difference on the diplomatic front. While this wouldn't reduce pressure for the Phantoms, it would give us additional evidence for proving that we are not totally insensitive to their security requirements. That plus our general interest in Israel's defense are the main reasons for going ahead; I don't think there's much room for a bargain here.
The only reason this comes up for decision now is that we must notify Douglas Aircraft by September 30 to avoid a break in the production line which would add to the price. If we're going to do it, we might as well keep the line going.
Source: "Action Memorandum From Presidential Assistant [Walt] Rostow to President Johnson," Smith, Louis J. (Ed.). Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, V. 20, Arab-Israeli Dispute 1967-1968. DC: GPO, 2001.