Calming Israel's Concerns About U.S. Arms Sales to Jordan

(February 10, 1965)


The United States is telling Israel that limited arms sales to Jordan will not threaten the balance of power and will prevent Jordan from obtaining an unlimited supply through Soviet channels.


Memorandum for Robert W. Komer of the National Security Council Staff1

Washington, February 10, 1965.

Your mission is to explain to the Government of Israel in full and friendly candor the reasons why we believe that limited and carefully spaced out US arms sales to Jordan are far better than the alternative of uncontrollable Soviet or UAR supply.

Since the Israelis seem to have focussed only on the added threat to them from US arms sales to Jordan, you should lay heavy emphasis on the far greater threat which would ensue from uncontrolled Soviet or UAR supply. You should point out that from our talks with King Hussein we are convinced that, unless he can get minimum satisfaction from us or Western European sources, he will be compelled to take the Soviet route.

I want you to make clear that our effort from the outset has been primarily aimed at minimizing the threat to Israeli security and area stability, not the reverse. Indeed, we have no independent interest in Jordan. Our subsidies to it, now totalling almost a half billion dollars, have been primarily designed to maintain an independent Arab kingdom, not under hostile domination, along Israel's longest and most vulnerable frontier. In our judgment this factor has contributed materially to Israel's security.

You should further stress our conviction, buttressed by the views of our Joint Chiefs of Staff, that the limited arms sales we envisage to Jordan will not significantly increase the overall threat to Israel. Even if this were the case, however, the increased threat would hardly be comparable to that created by Jordan's acceptance of Soviet and UAR arms, and possibly UAC troops on Jordan's soil, which in turn would risk ultimate UAR domination of Jordan. Thus I see US arms sales to Jordan as merely a further step in a longstanding US policy, which I understand to be tacitly acquiesced in by Israel, of forestalling this worst of all eventualities.

If you are asked whether the US has already agreed on arms sales with King Hussein you should say that we have not yet done so, but are prepared to do so shortly if he meets our terms. I believe that these terms are so much in Israel's interest that I wish to solicit not only Israel's understanding but its active support of our policy.

While you are not authorized to discuss the matter pending further instructions, I am aware that to secure Israel's active support it will probably be necessary to indicate our willingness to sell arms to Israel sooner or later. The US recognizes that continued Soviet arms sales to the Arabs can over time upset the Arab-Israeli deterrent balance. The Israelis will be particularly eager for such sales if West Germany cancels the remainder of its program.

We continue to prefer that Israel seek maximum help from European sources. However, if and when we and Israel jointly agree that Israel has a demonstrable need which cannot be satisfactorily filled elsewhere, we will consider direct sales on favorable credit terms. In return the US would expect to receive certain undertakings from Israel. These matters will be the subject of a further instruction to you.

Notes

1 Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Vol. III. Secret; Exdis. The memorandum, typed on White House stationery, bears no indication of the drafter. A handwritten notation states that it was approved on February 11. Bundy sent a copy to Ball that day, stating that he "did not like to show these things to the President without Ball's seeing them." (Ibid., Ball Papers, Jordan) Telegram 736 to Tel Aviv, February 11, from Bundy to Komer, states that his instructions had been approved by "highest authority." (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 7 US/KOMER)


Source: United States Department of State