The U.S. is prepared to sell Israel tanks and some guns, but will only sell Israel aircraft if they cannot obtain the from European countries.
222. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel/1/
1254. Israel Arms Procurement.
This message FYI throughout.
High level discussions within USG May 22 on Israel arms procurement/2/ resulted in following US position:
I. Tanks: US prepared:
1. Offer 110 M-48A2c tanks to make up shortfall in German deliveries. Fifteen ready for delivery in US this summer; balance in three months beginning mid-June 1966.
2. Offer 100 M-48A1 tanks to offset sale similar number basic M-48 tanks to Jordan. In view of Israeli request that M-48A1's be delivered before M-48A2c's to permit early conversion, deliveries to Israel would be made over four months beginning in mid-January 1966. US could deliver M-48A2c's ahead of M-48A1's if Israelis change their minds.
3. Provide kits to install 105-mm guns on 110 M-48A2c tanks and 140 M-48A1 tanks (40 from Germany and 100 from the US) in Israel.
4. Provide 140 kits for conversion in Israel of Israel's M-48A1 tanks to M-48A3 configuration. In view known Jordanian desires and comparability of Jordan and Israel tank sales (see Deptel 898 and US-Israeli Memorandum of Understanding),/3/ implication clear US will in due course be under strong pressure to supply Jordan M-48A3 tanks with 105-mm guns.
If Israel should press for delivery of 100 M-48A2c instead of M-48A1 tanks (as we think they will) to offset the Jordan sale, we could probably agree (unless it turns out that it seriously degrades US forces), provided we supplied neither kits for conversion of the 40 M-48A1's in Israel to M-48A3 configuration, nor kits to up-gun any of Israel's M-48 type tanks. Since these M-48A2c models could not be delivered before 1967 this concession would have advantage of broader phasing of deliveries and less political impact on Israel's neighbors. Any up-gunning kits would have to come from the UK.
II. Self-Propelled Guns:
US prepared to supply only M-44A1 SP 155-mm howitzers and then only in lieu of tanks on one-for-one basis.
1. Clear consensus contrary US interests to sell military aircraft to Israel.
2. We are committed to sell Israel aircraft only if Israel cannot obtain suitable aircraft from Western European sources. In any event, we would not sell supersonic aircraft, the number would not exceed 24, and delivery would not be until 1967. We are also most reluctant to sell a bomber or even an attack aircraft, but to avoid charges of bad faith we propose to stick for this round with the precise language of Memorandum of Understanding (i.e. certain number of combat aircraft) and March 10 Agreed Minutes (i.e. certain number of mutually agreed type).
3. We propose tell Israel Embassy here we expect detailed evidence of GOI effort procure Western European aircraft.
4. If, after intensive effort, GOI unable find suitable aircraft, we intend canvass Western European sources ourselves.
5. Since we wish to steer Israel to Europe rather than whet its appetitite for US aircraft, we do not now intend furnish GOI information on availability, price, characteristics, or recommendations re potentially available US combat aircraft. Supply such information before conclusion investigation Western European possibilities could destroy credibility US insistence upon thorough search for Western European aircraft. However, we will provide certain information on costliness selected US aircraft we do not intend to sell, with a view to encouraging Israelis to search for suitable foreign aircraft.
During forthcoming discussions with Israel here/4/ we intend to reiterate statement made to Israel Ambassador May 19 (Deptel 1184)/5/ and stress that Israel's military attacks intended to solve water diversion issue could cause suspension of arms arrangements at any stage.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, DEF 12-5 ISR. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Drafted by Russell; cleared by Symmes, Talbot, Solbert, Bunte, Creel, and Komer; and approved by Rusk. A May 27 draft by Russell is attached with a note that the telegram was retyped with White House changes. Repeated to London, Bonn, and to Paris for the Embassy and DEFREPNAMA.
/2/No record of these discussions has been found.
/3/See footnote 2, Document 183 and Document 185.
/4/Talbot and Solbert presented the U.S. response to the Israeli arms request to Harman on June 15. (Memorandum of conversation; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, DEF 12-5 ISR)
/5/See footnote 3, Document 216.
Sources: U.S. Department of State