Discussion of Selling Arms
to Israel and Jordan
(February 9, 1965)
The Johnson Adminstration
was anxious to sell arms to Jordan. King
was trying to extort the weapons
by threatening to go to the Soviets if he
didn't get what he wanted from the U.S. At
the same time, Israel was concerned that its
neighbor, which was still at war with it,
was going to get a major weapons upgrade while
the U.S. refused to sell comparable arms to
Israel. The Administration still preferred
to have a European nation sell to Israel instead.
Also interesting is the continuing solicitation
of Nasser even though he remained hostile
toward the United States.
143. Memorandum From Robert
W. Komer of the National Security Council
Staff to President Johnson1
Washington, February 9, 1965.
Jordan Arms. Here are the key issues for 4:30 p.m. meeting. Of course
the underlying decision to be made is whether we should now sell arms
to Israel as well as Jordan, as the only way to buy off the Israelis
and protect your domestic flank. This would raise hob with the Arabs,
but is probably necessary sooner or later anyway.
A. Should we sweeten the Jordan package? Talbot, Solbert and our Embassy
recommend doing so pronto, to forestall Hussein going the Soviet route.2 They doubt Hussein would take even sweetened package, but feel we could
buy 10 days or so by saying we'd reconsider in Washington.
1. Supersonics are still the crux. Talbot again urges we offer 20 F-104C's,
since Hussein claims he's committed to take MIGs otherwise. If not,
he suggests we say we'll reconsider and answer a week from now. He also
suggests we tell King we'll help him try to get European jets, but if
this fails we'll provide 104s. I'd prefer saying we'd "consider"
104s in that case.
2. Tanks. Talbot says we're in a bind because Jordan knows Israel is
getting better tanks. He proposes offering M48A1 with promise to "discuss"
conversion to M48A3 "at early date" (it would take two years
to deliver in any case).
3. Timing of Deliveries. King claims they must meet UAC timetable,
so must have whole ground force package in one year instead of four
(1966-69) we propose. Talbot urges two years with added stretchout on
tanks. I'd prefer three years because early deliveries might spook Israelis
4. Credit terms. Jordan wants full credit terms (we offered only $7
million revolving credit) so it can get whole package before other Arabs
pay for it. King claims Soviets offer easy credit terms. Talbot and
State favor increasing credit margin to $15 million and letting first
year's sales go on credit. I'd be much tougher, since our safety valve
is to sell only what King can find money for.
Ball will argue for sweetening package as Talbot wants to keep Hussein
on the hook while we take 7-10 days to reconsider. But the higher we
bid the more trouble we'll have with Israelis (who now know our minimum).
So I'd argue for just enough sweetening to show Hussein we're serious
and 10 days reconsideration in Washington (while we beat up Israelis).
B. How do we calm down Israelis? Despite their leak, they're still
salvageable in my judgment. My hunch is they panicked because Germans
reneged on them at very same time. So after a great show of indignation,
we ought to go back at them hard, since we need their active help to
protect your domestic flank.
As I see it, more turns on what we're prepared to offer them than on
who carries the word. To really calm them we'll have to say (once other
arguments are exhausted), that we'll sell to them too if and when we
both agree that a need arises. This is a mighty big sweetener, and a
mighty risky one, since it may get us in real dutch with the Arabs.
We may even make it impossible for Hussein to take our arms. State is
for this in principle, but afraid to bite the bullet.
If we do go this route, we ought also to get some quid pro quos: (a)
nuclear non-proliferation and acceptance of IAEA controls; (b) active
Israeli lobbying in support of Jordan arms deal and aid to Nasser; (c)
a commitment against pre-emption on Jordan waters.
C. How do we negotiate this? A special emissary is the best bet, and
the sooner the better before the whole business leaks. But the more
public the exercise the more risks of leaks. Harriman has the clout
(and I'll gladly side him) but: (a) Israeli papers will have a field
day speculating why Harriman is there; (b) Arabs may put two and two
together and say he's there to get Israeli permission to sell arms to
D. If we decide to sell to Israel, we must clue Nasser in advance.
This may be a long shot, but it damped his reaction to Hawk deal. We'd
have to tell Nasser face-to-face that if Arabs keep building up against
Israel, we'll have to maintain the balance. Ball has talked with Bob
Anderson, who is going to Cairo in about four days.
E. Getting the Germans to help. If they actually cancel their military
aid to Israel,3 Israelis will immediately be after
us to replace this. Therefore, I see every merit in urging Germans at
highest level not to cancel but to promise Arabs they'll end program
as soon as existing commitments are filled. They could claim this is
a matter of honor.
The above combination of moves seems the best way out of our painful
dilemma, but one which was going to be on us sooner or later anyway.
R. W. Komer
1 Source: Johnson Library, National Security File,
Country File, Jordan, Vol. I. Secret.
2 Talbot's recommendations, summarized in this memorandum,
were sent in telegram 444 from Amman, February 9. (National Archives
and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, DEF 12-5 JORDAN)
3 Telegram 2940 from Bonn, February 6, reported that
the German Government had concluded that it could not continue shipments
of arms to Israel, which had been conditioned on secrecy but had become
public knowledge, and had proposed to Israel that it stop further shipments
and pay Israel a sum of money as a "quid pro quo." (Ibid.,
DEF 12-5 ISR)
Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, V. 18, Arab-Israeli
Dispute 1964-1967. DC: GPO,