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Lyndon Johnson Administration:
U.S. Offers Israel a New Arms Deal to Compensate for Arms Sale to Jordan

(March 3, 1965)


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The United States Government will sell military equipment to Israel comparable in quantities and kinds to the equipment the US sells to Jordan to avoid the Soviet supply of arms through the United Arab Command to Jordan.

175. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel1

Washington, March 3, 1965, 10:48 p.m.

865. For Ambassador and Komer. The President has decided that in view of Israeli difficulties with the proposal carried by Harriman, as subsequently modified at Israeli insistence, we might now take another track. You should inform Eshkol that while we cannot wait longer to go forward with our agreement with Jordan, which as Israelis aware we consider in mutual interest of Israel and USG, we recognize Israeli concerns. In view of Israeli hesitation in accepting proposal presented by Harriman with subsequent modifications we were able to make, we are now prepared to make following alternative offer.

The USG is prepared to sell military equipment to Israel comparable in quantities and kinds to the equipment that the United States sells to Jordan to preclude the Soviet supply of arms through the United Arab Command (UAC) to Jordan. The United States regards such sales as an exception to its existing policy and not as creating any precedent for the future.

Condition is that if GOI accepts above offer, it must make a commitment not to oppose our offer to Jordan and to keep all aspects entire agreement completely secret until both governments agree on appropriate publicity.

We would expect a letter from Eshkol confirming this understanding along following lines:

"Dear Mr. President:

I greatly appreciate your consideration in sending Governor Harriman to discuss with us in depth the problems our two Governments face in connection with the developing situation in the Middle East. We have, I think, come to a full understanding.

Governor Harriman has made clear the concern of your Government for the maintenance of the security of Israel. On my part, I want you to know that we shall be as understanding as possible in helping you to meet some of the heavy responsibilities that you bear. I am, therefore, pleased to assure you that Israel will utilize all peaceful means to ensure protection of its share of Jordan waters and that we are willing to indicate publicly that Israel will not be the first to acquire or develop a nuclear weapons capability in the Arab-Israel area. For our part, (1) we understand that it is both necessary and useful for the US to seek to maintain an effective influence and presence in the Arab world; (2) we accept the need for the US to provide certain military equipment to Jordan; and (3) we welcome the willingness of the US Government to sell military equipment to Israel comparable in quantities and kinds to the equipment the US sells to Jordan to preclude the Soviet supply of arms through the UAC to Jordan. My government understands that the US regards such sales as an exception to its existing policy and not as creating any precedent for the future."

FYI. It is entirely possible that Prime Minister will find this less attractive than broader understanding on which we have been working. But there would be some advantage to us in having record show that, insofar as U.S. concerned, our only departure from longstanding policy (arms to Jordan) was balanced by corresponding offer to Israel. He may wish to return to more general discussion. You should report back any counter proposals he makes, specifically in having before him drafts of letter we think he should write President. What kind of letter does he think he can write President?

You should know we feel this matter should be brought to conclusion now rather than ending up in any special emissary or delegation to Washington. End FYI.

Rusk

Note

1 Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, DEF 12-5 ISR. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by Talbot and approved and initialed by Rusk.


Sources: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, V. 18, Arab-Israeli Dispute 1964-1967. DC: GPO, 2000.

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